Bacardi drops McCann London

Drinks brand calls time on ten-year relationship and draws up shortlist for £10m UK ad account.

The troubled drinks company Bacardi Martini has fired its agency of ten years, McCann Erickson, and has drawn up a shortlist of agencies to pitch for its £10 million UK advertising account.

Bacardi's decision follows a year of tension between agency and client.

The advertiser had been close to Ben Langdon, the former chairman, and Chris Hunton, the former chief executive.

The two parties have been in talks for several months to try to find an alternative strategy to its "Welcome to the Latin Quarter" idea. The agency presented its recommendations last week and, when they were rejected, the two parties agreed to terminate the contract.

The chain of events is reminiscent of the situation between McCann and Bacardi Breezer. The agency and client had trouble agreeing on a successor to the "Tom Cat" campaign and McCann took on a project-only contract at the beginning of this year.

Bacardi's decision to quit McCann Erickson in the UK is not related to its current pitch for a global branding campaign. Several international shops, including McCann New York and DDB London, have presented ideas for the brand. In its most recent results, Bacardi saw net profits decline by 21 per cent to $331 million. The company's chief executive and president, Javier Ferran, resigned from the company earlier this week.

McCann's most recent work for Bacardi was "platform", featuring the actor Raoul Bova. It succeeded a long-running campaign starring Vinnie Jones.

Both campaigns used the "Welcome to the Latin Quarter" theme.

However, new regulations that are being drawn up by Ofcom are expected to clamp down on advertising for drinks brands that associates drinking with partying and excessive behaviour. The restrictions will form part of the Government's crackdown on binge drinking.

The split between McCann London and Bacardi is not expected to affect its relationship with sister agencies. Universal McCann handles the brand's media and McCann Erickson holds the creative account in other European markets, notably Spain.

- Comment, p44.