Milk Bone Runs Away from Its AOR

By Patrick Coffee 

Milk Bone, the century-old pet food brand acquired by snack giant J.M. Smucker’s earlier this year, has decided to make some changes in its marketing–one of which involves parting ways with its creative AOR Arnold Worldwide.

Arnold’s New York office won the account in a review in early 2013; it was the first win under then-new global CEO Robert LePlae, who lasted only 15 months on the job. At the time, Milk Bone was part of Del Monte Foods along with Meow Mix, 9Lives and several other prominent pet food names, but in 2014 the company became Big Heart Pet Brands after one of those confusing corporate M&A moves that involved a somehow unrelated company called Del Monte Pacific Inc.

Earlier this year, Smucker’s bought Big Heart for $3 billion in an attempt to expand into a new market because American pet ownership is on the rise. The plan worked; sales rose 47 percent in Q2 on the strength of all those super-annoying dog and cat owners who clog your Instagram feed every day. (We plead guilty to this one.)

A client spokesperson confirmed that Milk Bone will no longer work with Arnold. The company will not issue an RFP as it has already chosen its new AOR, but the spokesperson declined to provide that agency’s name at this time.

Here’s the quote from Arnold, which also cites the acquisition as the reason for the change:

“Arnold is proud to have partnered with Big Heart Pet Brands the past three years to launch Milk-Bone’s first brand campaign in more than a decade and their highly successful Brushing Chew. Following their purchase of Big Heart Pet Brands earlier this year, The J.M. Smucker Company is consolidating agency partners in an effort to seek efficiencies, thereby Arnold’s contract will be ending on October 31, 2015. We wish them the very best.”

The account was relatively small when it went to Arnold (Nielsen said the brand spent less than $1 million in 2012), but as mentioned in the quote above, the agency did create a multimedia campaign to help launch the client’s new “brushing chews” product in 2014.

We assume, based on the success of the Smucker’s investment and the general rise in consumer spending on pet food products, that the company’s media investment will be significantly higher next year than it was this year.