Unilever is reviewing its Van Den Bergh and Bestfoods agency roster, which includes Lowe Lintas, Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, DDB and BBDO with a view to cutting it back to include fewer networks.
The five networks have been asked to take part in a strategic review involving the assessment of previous work, capability to take on additional accounts, and developing future brand communication strategies. The review, estimated to involve pounds 200 million pounds-worth of billings, will lead to a realignment of agency responsibilities. The review gives BBDO and DDB a chance to win a place on Unilever's coveted roster.
Unilever's Van Den Bergh and Bestfoods brands will shortly be repositioned under two master brands, Knorr and Hellmann's, in keeping with the strategy installed by Unilever's chairman, Niall Fitzgerald, last year. This brand migration will mean that certain products, such as the cook-in sauce Chicken Tonight, will be re-branded as Knorr Chicken Tonight. However, a few 'jewel' brands that do well regionally, such as Marmite, will remain unchanged.
Michael Brockbank, the vice-president of advertising at Unilever, said: 'Following Unilever's brand focus exercise and the addition of Knorr/Hellmann's brands to the portfolio, the savoury and dressings category teams are reviewing the agency alignment on their priority brands to channel the experience and resources of these agencies more effectively.
'Brands will be reassigned to the main agency partners on the basis of global or regional alignments. A decision on future assignments will be made early in the New Year. Some of our brands will no longer have the support they previously had, some will be migrated in to other brands. We're trying to allocate resources to agencies more logically.'
Some of the agencies on the existing roster will have to deal with the problem of conflicts of interest during their strategic review. JWT's commitment to Kraft and its dressings range will mean it will not be able to pitch for Unilever work in some markets. BBDO will encounter the same hurdle with its client, Campbell Soup.
Brockbank maintained that this is not a major concern for Unilever and that it added a healthy element of competition for each category. 'The review is on a global level but that does not mean that those assignments will have to be global,' he said.