Lowe, JWT, DDB to split Unilever food branding

Lowe Lintas, DDB and J. Walter Thompson have come out on top in the pounds 200 million global Unilever Van den Bergh and Bestfoods agency review.

Lowe Lintas, DDB and J. Walter Thompson have come out on top in the pounds 200 million global Unilever Van den Bergh and Bestfoods agency review.

BBDO has lost its place on the roster, while Ogilvy & Mather failed to pick up any new business in the review.

Lowe has gained the entire dressings business, which includes Hellmann's mayonnaise. JWT and DDB will split the savoury business 60 to 40, respectively.

Michael Brockbank, the vice-president of advertising at Unilever, refused to confirm the revised roster: 'No final decision has been made.' However, he did confirm that a proposal for the roster agencies had been put to the board. 'We have to find an agreement within Unilever and with the agencies, and that has not yet happened - but I expect it to this week.

'It also depends on certain conditions from the agencies. We are in discussions,' Brockbank added.

News of the review came in December last year after the company acquired Bestfoods in June for pounds 13.4 billion.

Lowe, O&M and JWT, Unilever's main roster networks, and BBDO and DDB, the Bestfoods networks, were asked to take part in a strategic review involving assessments of previous work, capability to take on additional portfolios and future brand communication strategies.

Lowe already handles the Wishbone dressing work for Unilever in the US, but now takes on BBDO's US Hellmann's business.

In the UK the Hellmann's account will move to Lowe, out of BMP DDB. Lowe will also work on the Amore and Maille accounts.

JWT did not pitch for the dressings work as it handles food dressings for Kraft. The agency will take on some Bestfoods Knorr business in parts of the US, Europe and in Asia. DDB will continue to work on the brand in the UK , in the US and other European regions.

The biggest loser is BBDO Worldwide, which has lost about pounds 40 million of billings. The agency loses Knorr in Germany, Eastern Europe, the Philippines and Latin America as well as the US Hellmann's account.

Unilever plans to reposition the Van den Bergh and Bestfoods brands under the two master brands - expected to be Knorr and Hellmann's. However, a few 'jewel' brands that do well regionally, such as Marmite, will maintain their branding.

When he called the review, Brockbank explained: 'Some of our brands will no longer have the support they previously had, some will be migrated into other brands. We're trying to allocate resources to agencies more logically.' This brand migration will mean that certain products such as the cook-in sauce Chicken Tonight will be rebranded as Knorr Chicken Tonight.

The decision to place both JWT and BMP on the savoury roster comes as a surprise to insiders. Unilever was thought to have wanted to assign only one agency to the dressings, and one to the savoury work. The agencies have been tasked to work together on the Knorr brands.

O&M will continue to handle Unilever's margarine brands in Europe, ice-cream brands in the US and tea brands in India and South-East Asia.