General Mills Eyeing 4 Agencies

The review for General Mills’ $450 million-plus media consolidation will be limited to four shops. Whoever wins the business may eventually find itself with a bonus: Pillsbury’s estimated $80 million-plus media account.

The maker of Wheaties, Cheerios and other brands began contacting contenders last week. General Mills wants to finish the search before the upfront selling season begins this spring.

In the U.S., the Minneapolis-based client’s media-shop lineup includes OMD in Chicago and Zenith Media in New York. Los Angeles-based Initiative Media North Americahas also been asked to take part. Universal McCann, which has worked on Cereal Partners—the client’s joint venture with Nestlé in Britain—also is expected to participate.

For creative, the client works chiefly with DDB in Chicago, Saatchi & Saatchi in New York and Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis.

The review comes seven months after General Mills agreed to pay $10.5 billion for Diageo’s Pillsbury unit. While the deal is not yet consummated, and there fore Pillsbury’s media account, now at Starcom MediaVest Group, is not on the table, sources said it may land with the General Mills account.

A source said the review was motivated by the need to think bigger. “They’re becoming a different company,” the source said, “and they’re starting to think more about their global marketing.”

“General Mills has a lot on their plate right now, so it’s not surprising that they want to look at their advertising,” said Sally Schaadt, as analyst with Fourteen Research in New York.

In the cereal cate gory, the client holds a thin market-share lead over rival Kellogg Co., which it overtook last year for the first time since 1906, per Hoo ver’s On line. In the 52-week period ending Jan. 28, General Mills reported $2.4 billion in cereal sales, or 32.1 percent of the market, per Information Resources. —with Kathleen Sampey and Aaron Baar