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Mars Agency Realigns

BBDO, DDB add brands; TBWA, SapientNitro out
Mars Bar

Photo: John Pryke/Getty Images

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Mars is consolidating creative duties for its global brands at existing Omnicom agency partners BBDO and DDB, and cutting ties with their corporate sibling TBWA and independent SapientNitro, effective in September.

BBDO, which has been adding assignments from Mars over the past couple of years, appears to be the clear winner, earning global duties on high-profile brands Dove, Twix, Pedigree, and Whiskas.

For its part, DDB picks up Wrigley’s candies Starburst and Skittles and regional Mars brands like Milky Way and Combos in the U.S. and Balisto in the U.K. and Europe. DDB also adds European pet-care assignments like Kitekat, Chappi, Catsan, Frolic, Schmackos, and Temptations/Dreamies.

TBWA took the biggest hit, losing the Pedigree, Whiskas, Starburst, and Skittles brands. The agency, which landed its first Mars/Masterfoods assignment in May, 2002, had grown the business to nearly 30 brands handled around the world by 2007. SapientNitro had global responsibilities for Dove chocolate.

Global spending on the brands could not immediately be determined, although spending, per Nielsen, on the four brands awarded to BBDO rung up more than $120 million in the U.S. and U.K. in 2010.

Mars began its global realignment in September 2009 and said then it would be an ongoing process until the end of 2011. The manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food and drinks had been working with different agencies around the world, but began shifting core brands to dedicated global networks.

As Mars shuffled assignments among its four global agencies over the past couple of years, BBDO staged a comeback, regaining Snickers after losing the business in 2006, and added global creative responsibilities on brands like Uncle Ben’s

SapientNitro, on the other hand, was left with only a single brand, Dove chocolate, after Mars moved Twix to TBWA\Chiat\Day last year.

SapientNitro was created after Sapient Corp. acquired Nitro in 2009, an ad agency that counted Mars as one of its founding, and largest, clients. In April, SapientNitro put new management on the business when it hired Leigh Baker, a Publicis N.Y. svp/group account director on brands like Nestle and Coca-Cola, to be the global account director on Mars.

BBDO will now work on 13 of Mars’ 16 global brands, including four of the company’s five “billion-dollar” confectionery brands like M&Ms, Snickers, Dove, Extra, Orbit and two of its three “billion-dollar” pet-food brands, Pedigree and Whiskas.

The shift of assignments to DDB, which works on Life Savers in North America and Airwaves gum outside the states, had not been foreshadowed. The agency had been losing ground with Mars in recent years and lost its largest brand, Extra, to BBDO last year.

In a statement, Bruce McColl, global chief marketing officer of Mars, said: “We are grateful for the contributions that SapientNitro and TBWA have made to the growth of our brands over the years. This was a tough decision, but we are very confident that consolidating our brands with DDB and BBDO will help us continue to build our connection with consumers all over the world.”

A Mars rep declined to comment on whether the consolidation process included reviews for the agency assignments.