We Hear: Tyson Moves Work Away From VML Chicago

By Patrick Coffee 

Tyson, which is “one of the world’s largest food companies and a recognized leader in protein,” has curtailed its relationship with WPP’s VML in Chicago, according to parties with knowledge of the business.

The company is the country’s top processor of beef, and it also currently accounts for a majority of VML Chicago’s revenue. Tyson, which has been punished by the market and President Trump’s tariffs over the past year, agreed earlier this month to acquire Keystone Foods for more than $2 billion.

“VML Chicago continues to work with Tyson as a part of the WPP team alongside the multiples agencies on their roster,” said an agency spokesperson. “There is no impact on staff to the VML Chicago operation as the office continues to see organic growth within its client portfolio.”


The representative declined to elaborate on how other clients’ growth would relate to the Tyson account or address claims that the company has moved work away from VML.

“We centralize agency resources through WPP in a team account structure with varying agencies supporting our business based on needs,” said a Tyson representative who declined to elaborate on each of those agency’s responsibilities. “We have no plans to review any of our business.”

WPP won new business from Tyson in 2016 via Ogilvy Chicago and others, then proceeded to create its 49th Horizontal Client Team group with then-VML Chicago managing director Julia Hammond at the helm. VML has also very recently expanded the Tyson team.

Last year, the client consolidated again by moving its media business from IPG’s BPN to Mindshare. “Our decision to appoint Mindshare was based, in part, on our intent to centralize agency resources through WPP,” said a rep at the time.

One source who cited conflicting reports about the degree to which Tyson has shifted work from one shop to another said, “Revenue has always flowed back and forth between the agencies as work shifts year to year.” It is unclear at this time what the ultimate distribution of responsibilities will be.

Spokespeople for Y&R, Ogilvy and Cavalry, the other primary WPP creative agencies on the Tyson roster, deferred to the client for comment. A Mindshare representative did not respond to a related email.

In other news, VML parted with a small number of staffers in its Kansas City headquarters shortly after losing Bayer Companion Animal, which consolidated its global business with BBDO and Proximity earlier this summer. The agency spokesperson said the two events were unrelated, confirming that Kansas City recently parted with “roughly a dozen folks” but continues to hire more than that total every month.

Tyson spends hundreds of millions on advertising across its brand portfolio every year in the U.S. alone.