Kraft Heinz Names Carat AOR for US Media

Incumbent agency Starcom lost the brand's global business in 2020

Learn the ins, outs, dos and don’ts of creator marketing at Social Media Week Europe this 10–11 October in London. Register for your in-person or virtual pass.

Global CPG giant The Kraft Heinz Company has named Carat its media agency of record in the U.S. market. The account move follows a global review and sees the business leave Publicis Media’s Starcom.

It’s an upset for Starcom, which lost Heinz’s global business in August 2020 after an eight-month global review involving four competitors. At the time, Kraft Heinz awarded Carat, a Dentsu Media agency, its Canada and international business. Carat also took the lead on global campaigns, working alongside the brand’s Amsterdam-based global media team.

Until now, Starcom managed to hold onto the company’s business in the U.S., the largest market for Kraft Heinz. After retaining the U.S. business in 2020, Publicis Media developed a custom, ecommerce-focused team for the brand called Publicis 57. When it established Publicis 57, Adweek obtained a memo from then-Publicis Media Americas CEO Tim Jones, which noted that more 200 Publicis Groupe employees worked on the 2020 pitch.

Publicis Media and Starcom declined to comment on the account loss, deferring to the brand. A source close to the review confirmed that Kraft Heinz will continue to work with Publicis Media-owned ecommerce solutions providers Profitero and Arc Worldwide, and data firm Epsilon.

It remains unclear what will become of Publicis 57, and what staffing changes will come next.

Kraft Heinz could not be reached for comment by the time of this story’s publication.

Winning the brand’s U.S. business is a boon to Carat, the largest of Dentsu Media’s agencies. The holding company is undergoing significant change following its Americas CEO Doug Rozen‘s swift departure last month. This was as the media organization announced it will double down on its Merkle media offerings, consolidating them beneath Carat sister agency iProspect.

Heating up global marketing efforts

Kraft Heinz, which oversees 335 brands, spent $364 million on global media last year, according to COMvergence estimates. The brand delegated 52% of that investment toward digital media. North America accounted for a majority of the brand’s media spend, at $274 million. These 2022 estimates are considerably lower than at the time of Kraft Heinz’s 2020 review. Then, COMvergence estimated total global spend at around $520 million.

Kraft Heinz is undergoing its own leadership changes.

Nina Barton, previously the global chief growth officer for Kraft Heinz, left the brand in late 2020. Last September, the brand tapped Diana Frost to lead its growth. More recently, the brand confirmed it will name Carlos Abrams-Rivera its new CEO and board member effective Jan. 1, 2024. Rivera, in his current role as evp and president of the brand’s North America business zone, oversees its operations in the U.S. and Canada.

Amid the leadership changes, Kraft Heinz is also upping its emphasis on brand marketing. It launched its in-house agency, The Kitchen, in 2020, and immediately began scaling its operations. The in-house organization launched first in North America, and it’s since expanded to eight international markets, including Europe, Australia, China and Brazil.

Cristina Kenz, The Kitchen’s international chief growth and sustainability officer, told Adweek in February that the shop delivers quick, personalized campaigns that work hand-in-hand with the brands’ global creative partners like Wunderman Thompson Spain.

Kenz hopes more innovative marketing initiatives propel Kraft Heinz toward better sales outcomes while opening up new revenue streams. This year, the company is focusing on scaling marketing innovation internationally—this summer, Kraft Heinz named Wieden+Kennedy London its creative agency for the U.K., and in June the partners launched new out of home and social campaigns.

The Wieden+Kennedy London work is one aspect of a massive global campaign led by Wieden+Kennedy New York. The campaign, called “It Has to Be Heinz,” is the largest media investment the company’s ever made and the first-ever global campaign in the brand’s 150-year history.

Enjoying Adweek's Content? Register for More Access!