TBWA and Grey lie in wait as Mars dumps D'Arcy

The advertising future of key Mars Masterfoods brands hangs in the balance following the axing of the D'Arcy network from the company's global roster.

The move, effective in 90 days, signals the end of a 50-year relationship between Mars and D'Arcy, and means that several key confectionery, petcare and food brands are without an advertising agency. The business was worth £10 million in the UK and £100 million globally.

The UK brands that are affected include Maltesers, Skittles and Revels, as well as the Dolmio pasta sauce brand and the organic range Seeds of Change. Bounce, Cesar, Chappie, Pal Frolic and Catsan litter are the petcare brands which are now up for grabs.

D'Arcy also handled Whiskas and Uncle Ben's in the US.

The loss of the account will come as a blow to D'Arcy, but is not thought to have come as a surprise, as the agency lost its key Mars and Twix brands to Grey last year. Relations are known to have been strained between Mars and D'Arcy for some time, with Mars irritated by D'Arcy's decision to close its St Louis office, which had been handling Mars assignments for decades.

Senior Mars executives, including the vice-president of marketing Ken Rogers, are locked in discussions at Mars' head office in McLean, Virginia this week.

It is not clear whether Mars' other roster networks, Grey Worldwide and BBDO, will absorb the business, but the company is believed to be speaking to other networks such as TBWA/Chiat/Day.

The axing of the agency comes in the same week as Mars' top European petcare marketer, Anne Francke, left the company without a job to go to.

- Perspective, p2.