Omnicom's TBWA network has been approached to pitch against WPP's JWT and Interpublic's Lowe for the global Persil account, which is worth 200 million euros.
JWT is the incumbent on the £25 million UK account, while Lowe holds the bulk of the business in the US, Asia-Pacific and Europe. TBWA is not a Unilever roster agency, and therefore its inclusion in the pitch signals the household goods giant's willingness to shake up its marketing activity.
The winning network will take the entire Omo account, which includes the brands Persil, Ala and Skip.
The pitch, due to kick off next month, is the first advertising decision taken since Unilever's restructure earlier this month. The company dropped its dual-management set-up - Patrick Cescau, the former UK-based co-chairman, became the sole group chief executive, and his former co-chairman, Ant-ony Burgmans, took the role of non-executive chairman.
The changes were made in response to the company's disappointing financial performance. Unilever has lost market share across Europe and in Asia.
Last year it issued a profits warning and, earlier this month, it revealed poor full-year results for 2004. Group profits were down 37 per cent to £2.8 billion from £4.5 billion in 2003, while turnover was down 6 per cent to £40.4 billion.
The results have been blamed, in part, on an under-investment in advertising by Unilever. The Persil review is seen as the first step in an significant overhaul of the FMCG giant's advertising activity. Insiders expect that Comfort is the next brand in line for a global review.
The Persil review poses a serious threat to Lowe's network credentials. A strong global relationship with Unilever is key to Lowe's profile, but the network has lost brands including Surf and Flora in the past 18 months.
- Comment, page 56.