Mars calls £50m UK media contest

LONDON - Mars is carrying out a review of its £50 million UK media planning arrangements.

The confectionery, food and pet care giant is expected to centralise media planning into one agency in the UK. However, agency sources have told Campaign that the UK review may develop into a review of Mars' global planning arrangements.

MediaCom, MediaVest and PHD currently handle planning for a range of Mars brands in the UK, while Zenith handles the centralised media buying business for 75 Mars brands. The company is talking to both roster and non-roster agencies, however.

A senior agency source said: "Mars is looking to centralise its planning and is filtering agencies at the moment. It is currently working its way round different markets so it can review globally."

The news that Mars is seeking to centralise media planning follows the company's decision to merge its food and petcare businesses in the UK. Mars Confectionery, which includes Maltesers and Mars Bar, and Pedigree Masterfoods, which includes Dolmio and Uncle Ben's, will trade under the name Masterfoods, a division of Mars UK.

Mike Davies, the managing director of Pedigree Masterfoods, has been appointed as the head of the combined business in a move which triggered the departure of Bill Ronald, the managing director of Mars Confectionery.

The restructure is consistent with the reorganisation that has taken place in other Mars businesses throughout the world this year as part of an attempt to achieve improved economies of scale.

In the US, Masterfoods has this week selected Arnell Group as its principal marketing development agency to work with roster shops on brand positioning and research and development. But a question mark hangs over media planning in the US, further fuelling reports that the review of media planning may be carried out globally.

Mars UK has recently pulled its pan-European Mars Bar creative account out of D'Arcy, ending a 40-year relationship with that agency earlier this month.

Grey Worldwide won the brief to revitalise the Mars Bar brand after pitching against fellow Mars roster network BBDO and the incumbent. Mars claimed the review was "part of a regular brand review".

Losing Mars Bar came as a blow to D'Arcy as the agency had already lost the £24 million pan-European Uncle Ben's rice business to BBDO earlier this year.

Mars UK declined to comment on the review of media planning in the UK. Of the roster agencies, MediaVest handles 19 Mars brands, PHD has nine and MediaCom has eight brands.

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