Mars is about to switch its pounds 10 million Whiskas catfood
account to Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO from M&C Saatchi in a realignment
being planned by the US-based giant.
Industry sources say the switch is being delayed only while Mars chiefs
decide what assignment M&C Saatchi will receive as compensation.
Andrew Robertson, AMV’s chief executive, refused to answer any questions
about an impending change. But insiders say the move would make sense.
Britain is the only major European market where Whiskas is not handled
by BBDO, whose work has helped halt a ten-year sales decline for the
Nevertheless, the work by M&C Saatchi for Whiskas is highly regarded by
Mars, which has had it adapted for use in the US.
’Although it would make sense to move Whiskas out of M&C Saatchi, Mars
holds the agency in very high regard,’ an industry source commented,
adding: ’The company is honourable and likes long-term relationships. It
would not allow the agency to go away empty-handed.’
The award of the Whiskas business to M&C Saatchi in May 1996 gave
Maurice Saatchi a place back on the Mars roster and reaffirmed the
company’s faith in him after his ousting by the then Saatchi & Saatchi
Since then, the agency’s award-winning work on the brand has been hailed
as mould-breaking advertising in its sector despite criticisms that it
was not giving Whiskas a distinctive personality.
At the start of this year, the agency succeeded in winning considerable
media coverage for Whiskas by producing what it claimed was the first TV
commercial to ’talk’ to cats in their own language.
Pedigree Masterfoods, the Mars subsidiary that makes Whiskas, this week
denied any knowledge of a change.
The news has revived rumours that M&C Saatchi could take over from
D’Arcy on the pounds 10 million task of reviving the flagging fortunes
of the Mars bar in the UK.
With daily sales of three million, Mars bar keeps its place behind
Nestle Rowntree’s Kit Kat as the UK’s second biggest-selling
confectionery brand. But the product is being perceived as increasingly
old-fashioned and there is concern that its promotion as virtually a
’replacement meal’ is out of touch in the days of health-conscious