Unilever calls global Wall's pitch

LONDON - McCann on alert as food giant invites Lowe and DDB to pitch for £150m global ice-cream assignment

McCann Erickson is fighting to keep its place on the Unilever roster, as the FMCG giant gears up to review ad arrangements on its £150 million global ice-cream business.

Unilever has briefed two agencies on its roster, DDB Worldwide and Lowe Worldwide, to prepare to pitch for its Heartbrand range, marketed in the UK as Wall's. Both are believed to be leading their pitches from their UK offices.

According to a source close to the account, McCann has been given a "last chance" on the brand, but both DDB and Lowe are confident the account will go to pitch.The review is understood to have been instigated by Simon Clift, who became the chief marketing officer for the entire Unilever portfolio in 2005.

Unilever is the number-one client by revenue at Lowe Worldwide. The business at McCann and DDB is believed to represent less than 5 per cent of each agency's total worldwide revenue.

In the UK, the Wall's brand spent £12.6 million in audited media in the year ending March 2007, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Unilever is the world's largest ice-cream maker, with annual worldwide sales in excess of £3.3 billion. Its Heartbrand products include Magnum, Cornetto, Carte d'Or and Ben & Jerry's.

McCann has held a position on the Unilever roster for more than 20 years. Its network handles advertising for all ice-cream brands except for Ben & Jerry's, which is run out of Amalgamated in the US and Fallon in the UK. Nitro works on Unilever's Heartbrand lines in Asia.

It is unclear if Ben & Jerry's will be included in the review. Media, which is held by MindShare, is unaffected.

McCann increased its share of the business when Unilever bought Kraft General Foods' ice-cream business in 1993.

The global review comes as Unilever makes sweeping changes to its marketing department in the UK.

Earlier this month, Unilever gave responsibility for its £200 million UK budget to Paul Nevett and Matt Close, the marketing directors respectively for food and home and personal care.

Unilever was unavailable for comment.

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