Interpublic Group of Cos.' Weber Shandwick and a sister agency have both given up a plum PR account for Kellogg Co. only weeks after being awarded it, due to an apparent conflict of interest.
"Weber Shandwick and Current Lifestyle Marketing have informed us they cannot work with Kellogg." Brandy Ruff, Kellogg's director-brand relations, said in a statement to Ad Age . "We will select another partner for our U.S. brands."
Ms. Ruff, a former Weber Shandwick employee who more recently spent time with Alberto Culver, declined to provide more details about the sudden parting of ways. "Details of these discussions are confidential," she said. The moves put the packaged goods-giant in a tough spot, as it will need to find a replacement to handle PR duties as soon as possible.
Representatives for Weber Shandwick told Ad Age : "A business issue arose in another part of our corporation that unfortunately made it impossible for us to work with Kellogg. We've got the greatest respect for Kellogg and we are very sorry this took place."
Indeed, the forced resignment of the account is likely gut-wrenching to Weber Shandwick since it provided a new opportunity; the agency hadn't worked on any Kellogg brands before.
Two executives familiar with the matter noted that the conflict which arose looms larger than Weber Shandwick alone and could involve a relationship with a client of parent Interpublic Group of Cos.
Kellogg markets multiple cookie offerings through its Keebler division. When asked if Keebler created a conflict with Weber Shandwick's Kraft Foods portfolio, which includes the marketer's Oreo brand and Lunchables, a spokesperson said no. Other possibilities could be General Mills or Nestle, which both work with Interpublic.
Weber Shandwick won the assignment in late October after Kellogg initiated a review to consolidate its PR duties.
The review included a large group of agencies, including Fleishman-Hillard, Edelman, MSLGroup and incumbent Ketchum, which is an Omnicom firm, as well as other incumbents, according to a number of industry executives.