Unilever Moves Knorr Creative Duties From JWT to Lowe

Change Affects Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America; Spurned CEO Calls Decision 'Unfair'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Unilever is shifting creative duties for its biggest brand, Knorr, in three global regions, moving the business from JWT to Lowe Worldwide.

The loss of Knorr, Unilever's largest brand, is a blow to JWT.
The loss of Knorr, Unilever's largest brand, is a blow to JWT.
Losing Knorr, Unilever's largest brand, with annual global sales of $3.9 billion, is a blow to JWT, a WPP Group agency, which has worked on the brand since 2001 and has been the lead creative shop for Knorr in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Omnicom Group's DDB handles creative for Knorr in North America, Australia and Africa. The agency was not affected by the change.

Unilever made the agency change on the business without a formal review.

Silvia Lagnado, Unilever's group VP-savoury, said in a statement: Lowe has delivered fresh ideas on the global projects we have worked on together and I am excited about the prospect of working with them going forward."

The shift means Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe picks up a plum piece of business, worth an estimated $5 million in revenue and $156 million in spending, according to executives familiar with the matter. Unilever is Lowe's biggest client.

"We are disappointed and have told Unilever we think it is an unfair decision," JWT Worldwide CEO Bob Jeffrey told staffers today in internal note. "We have put forth a lot of effort and seen a lot of success on this business."

Agency representatives declined to comment.

Ironically, the shift comes just a month after Mr. Jeffrey poached top creative Fernando Vega Olmos from Lowe, where he helped expand the shop's spot on Unilever's roster.

JWT's most recent work for the Knorr line of products, which includes soups, seasonings and frozen meals, is positioned as "Every meal is an opportunity." That tagline will continue to be used in communications, Mr. Jeffrey's note said.

JWT remains on the packaged goods giant's roster, working on beauty brands such as Sunsilk, Lux and Radiant.

Ms. Lagnado added in her statement: "This choice was far from easy to make and I'd like to thank JWT for all their hard work on the Knorr brand."

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Contributing: Emma Hall

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