The news in mid-September that Cadbury had moved its £100 million global advertising account out of Publicis and into another part of Publicis Groupe, the one-year-old Saatchi Saatchi Fallon (SSF) venture, posed a number of questions.
Just how will the new partnership work? Will the move be the catalyst for more brand consolidation? And, perhaps most poignantly, why make the change when some of Publicis' best work recently has been produced for Cadbury?
The facts are difficult to dispute. Thanks to Publicis' work on Creme Egg, sales were up 14.9 per cent year on year. Its contribution to the launch of the Creme Egg Twisted bar saw the product outsell the Mars bar this year. Its 2007 Wispa work won Campaign's press ad of the year.
Tamara Minick-Scokalo, the global commercial president of Cadbury, says the shift into SSF is not a reflection on Publicis, but a signifier of Cadbury's growing ambition. "There wasn't necessarily a problem with Publicis and the work it was doing. But at Cadbury, we have a very emotive brand that is well known for having tremendous communication advertising. A partnership with SSF will provide us with the match we need to help expand the brand and grow our business even further," she says.
And history has shown, Minick-Scokalo continues, that a change of agency is the best way to aid the progression. "I would say that Publicis did struggle with Dairy Milk, and when we moved it to Fallon and it gave us 'gorilla', it showed us the possibilities available to raise that bar a little further."
She describes the SSF partnership as "two terrific agencies that believe strongly in creative work. The talent they have as individuals can help us raise our creative bar."
Critics of the SSF model have questioned whether the decision to move the Cadbury account was made by Publicis Groupe's chief executive, Maurice Levy, and not Cadbury itself, to attempt to boost the profile of the SSF proposition.
"That is categorically not true," Minick-Scokalo says. Cadbury is not a client to allow itself to play the role of pawn. "We met a long time ago to discuss how we can drive Cadbury forward and made the decision ourselves. Levy has made a big win, but that's because we've consolidated some of our chocolate brands in countries like Canada, that weren't residing in a Publicis Groupe agency before."
She clarified which Cadbury brands will sit where. "Wispa will be based at Fallon, as will the national confectionery brand," she confirms. "Everything else will be over at Saatchis, including Creme Egg, Flake and Buttons. We think it's a fair split."
So Cadbury is clear: the move is the first endorsement of the SSF model, but it's a move made because it suited Cadbury.
The confidence Cadbury has in SSF now begs the question: will any more of its products be consolidated into the venture? JWT's Trident chewing-gum account, perhaps. But Minick-Scokalo denies it: "We have a relationship with JWT and have no plans to change that. The whole idea was to align all our chocolate brands into one agency, and now we've done that."