In a secret first meeting a little more than a month ago, BBDO and OMD executives met with Bacardi's new top management led by CEO Mike Dolan.
On the table for the March 13 session was a consolidation of the spirit company's global creative and media business, which has been spread across more than 700 agencies, with media spending of more than $175 million, by some estimates. Conversations continued, and in a few short weeks, Bacardi struck a deal to consolidate its portfolio of major brands at the two Omnicom networks.
"It was so unique in how this happened," said OMD worldwide CEO Mainardo de Nardis. "It wasn't about a review, pitches, presentations, spreadsheets, pricing. We feel empowered because this is a decision based on strategic discussions about how to improve Bacardi's business. It's a real partnership with a huge amount of trust. If only [all new business] could be like this."
De Nardis first met Dolan when the two worked at WPP after Y&R was sold to the U.K. holding company in 2000. BBDO Worldwide CEO Andrew Robertson knew Dmitry Ivanov—named CMO and president at Bacardi Global Brands in January—when he worked at Pepsi with BBDO in Russia from 2004 to 2005.
Ivanov said the agency shift reflects a change in the way Bacardi is approaching its worldwide communications.
"We've been thinking about finding a better solution in building brands globally in a consistent way across different geographic markets," he said. "What is the better structure? Before it's been a little decentralized. That's not been a sustainable model. We need to deliver the message in a more consistent way to consumers as well as customize the message in each market."
Dolan elaborated in a statement: "Our goal is to be able to work better and to create a closer alignment between our global and local operations. To achieve this goal requires that we work with a global network."
Among Bacardi's portfolio of 200 brands are flagship Bacardi, Martini, Bombay Sapphire, Dewars, Grey Goose, William Lawson's, Cazadores and St. Germain. It's believed the agencies handling current creative assignments include:
• Bacardi Rums – BETC London, global lead; Camp + King, San Francisco; The Barbarian Group, New York
• Grey Goose – Team WPP, Paris
• Bombay Sapphire – OppermanWeiss; AvroKO, both New York
• Martini – Fred & Farid, Paris
• William Lawson's – McCann Erickson, Brussels
• Eristoff – Moosylvania Marketing, St. Louis
• Cazadores – David & Goliath, Los Angeles; LatinWorks, Austin, Texas
Media has been managed by Mindshare in North America, where Bacardi spent $74 million in 2014 U.S. measured media, according to Kantar, and Zenith in Europe. In Asia and Latin America, other agencies have been responsible for media planning and buying.
Because of category conflicts, BBDO will give up two main liquor clients, Belvedere Vodka in the U.S. and Famous Grouse in the U.K. OMD has no current conflicts.
Roberston couldn't offer specifics about when new Bacardi creative work will break, but he sees the speed and focus of Bacardi execs over the last month as an indication of what to expect.
"This is a company that is very ambitious and decisive," Roberston said. "They've got a very clear picture of what they need from [an agency] partner and how to get the most from that partner."