D'Arcy braced for fresh Mars review

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 pounds 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 pounds 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 pounds 30 million global Twix business to Grey 15

months ago.