APL Under Fire On Ragu

Unilever Stages Roster Shootout For The Account
NEW YORK–Unilever is conducting an internal shootout among three of its four “club agencies” for the creative portion of the North American Ragu pasta sauce ad account, sources said.
Ammirati Puris Lintas, the New York incumbent, is defending the estimated $15 million-plus business against roster shops J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, both in New York. McCann-Erickson, the fourth Unilever agency, is not involved. Ragu is marketed by Unilever’s Lipton Foods unit.
All three contenders made creative presentations for the business last week. One source indicated the resolution of the review could “ultimately have global implications.”
A decision is expected soon. The client and all agencies declined comment. APL’s most recent TV work for the client was heavy on food and product shots, and carried no tagline.
The review is another challenge for APL in its relationship with the client. Earlier this year, the client gave some creative projects to Gotham here for Mentadent, handled by APL.
Ogilvy recently picked up some Ragu business in Britain from APL, sources said. Ogilvy’s Five Brothers sauce assignment is not in play.
The search comes at a time when Unilever chairman Niall FitzGerald, based in Europe, has been pushing for a more “uniform standard of creative excellence” for all of Unilever’s brands and divisions across the globe.
The client had commissioned a study from Research International in London to examine Unilever’s creative development process. The results showed the relationships were saddled with inconsistencies and bureaucracy. Meetings have been scheduled with the agencies in the coming months to address the findings.
The client has also looked outside its roster to hire smaller, creatively driven shops: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, was recently tapped to handle the early 1999 launch of a new “natural” line of personal care products. –with Sloane Lucas