Mars, D’Arcy Split Follows String of Brand Losses

Mars’ decision last week to end its 52-year relationship with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles came swiftly, but not out of the blue. In fact, the shop in recent years had lost several of the client’s brands after shootouts with fellow roster shops Grey and BBDO.

In 2000, the client shifted its Twix brand to Grey, and last year it shifted European duties on Mars Bar to Grey and European duties on Uncle Ben’s to BBDO. That left D’Arcy with about $110 million in Mars billings worldwide, garnered from about 20 brands, including Uncle Ben’s in the U.S., Skittles and Whiskas. The shop also handled business in Europe and Asia.

Mars is now looking at several shops, both on and off the roster, before it decides where to reassign the brands, sources said. For Whiskas and Uncle Ben’s in particular, Mars is considering several West Coast shops, since client executives for those brands are based in the Los Angeles area. That raises the possibil ity of a new agency being added to the roster.

Sources pointed to two shops: TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., and Deutsch/LA. A client representative said only that Mars was “reviewing agencies” and would decide within the “next few weeks.” The shops either declined comment or could not be reached.

In a joint statement, Mars and D’Arcy attributed their split to “philosophical differences” and “chang ing priorities.” Sources, however, said Mars was dissatisfied with D’Arcy’s performance and unhappy with the agency’s decision to close its St. Louis office, which serviced the U.S. business. D’Arcy initiated the process in February and had planned to shift its remaining Mars brands to offices in New York and Los Angeles.

D’Arcy worldwide CEO John Farrell told his staff about the split in a memo on Friday, after Mars had posted the news on an internal Web site in Europe, sources said. Farrell said he was “proud” of the agency’s work for the client, adding, “We wish Mars well as they now go down their path, and we go down ours.”

Media duties, split between Zenith Media and MediaVest, are unaffected by the move, sources said.