D'Arcy braced for fresh Mars review

LONDON - D'Arcy's relationship with its crucially important Mars client in Europe is hanging by a thread after this week's decision by the multinational advertiser to review its £24 million Uncle Ben's rice business across Europe.

With the network's tenure of the pan-European Mars Bar account already under threat (Campaign, 25 May), the loss of Uncle Ben's would be "tantamount to putting D'Arcy off the Mars roster in Europe" according to an industry source.

The Uncle Ben's pitch will once again put D'Arcy into competition with Mars' two other global networks - BBDO and Grey Worldwide - which are also challenging it for the Mars Bar business.

The pitch does not include the Dolmio sauces, pasta and frozen meals business which, like Uncle Ben's, is manufactured by Mars' Pedigree Masterfoods subsidiary and remains with D'Arcy.

The latest review is understood to have been prompted by a deteriorating relationship between D'Arcy and Mars' senior managers in Europe. "Somebody has pissed them off," a network source acknowledged.

Nevertheless, insiders believe D'Arcy's loss of the Uncle Ben's pan-European business, which is run out of its Paris office, is not a foregone conclusion. This is because of the long, high-level relationships between agency and client and the fact that D'Arcy's advertising for the brand in the US has been well received.

At the end of last year Mars announced plans to almost triple its marketing spend for Uncle Ben's Rice Bowls and launch 20 new product extensions in the US, promoted with advertising through the D'Arcy agency in New York. The brand featured on British TV last year as part of a £6.5 million spend.

But an industry source said: "In Europe the relationship between D'Arcy and Mars is much more frayed. It's not so much that Mars doesn't like the ads as the time it takes to get them. As a result, the relationship has become very fragile."

It is understood that Hella Cruz-Nielson, the senior Mars executive in charge of food product marketing in Europe, has yet to see agency presentations and that the company will think long and hard before making a decision which could have a profound effect on D'Arcy.

The network has been working desperately to shore up its Mars business since the loss of its £30 million global Twix business to Grey 15 months ago.


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