Tesco Tasks BBH With Brand Turnaround in Surprise U.K. Appointment

Unilever Connection Helps BBH Take $170 M Account from Wieden Without a Pitch

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Wieden & Kennedy Tesco Ad
Wieden & Kennedy Tesco Ad

Tesco, the U.K.'s biggest retailer, has dumped Wieden & Kennedy and appointed BBH without a pitch.

For BBH, the surprise appointment to the almost $170 million account is a welcome boost, coming only a month after the agency lost its global Johnnie Walker business to Anomaly.

There is a strong Unilever connection between the top executives at Tesco and Publicis Groupe's BBH. Tesco's new CEO Dave Lewis was previously president of personal care at Unilever, where he worked for 27 years. BBH Group CEO Neil Munn is also a former Unilever employee - he was global marketing director on Axe, part of the personal care division, before joining the agency in 2006.

For Wieden & Kennedy London, the news comes after a period of uncertainty with Tesco. All the senior marketers responsible for the appointment of Wieden & Kennedy in 2012 – as well as CEO Philip Clarke – have since left the company.

Tesco itself has been having major problems and the move to BBH is part of a much-needed brand turnaround. The U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal criminal investigation into accounting practices at the retailer, after a $400 million profit overstatement was uncovered last fall.

Mr. Lewis joined Tesco in September 2014 – a month earlier than planned -- after the previous CEO stepped down following an extended period of disappointing results and profit warnings.

Tesco has also appointed a PR agency, Blue Rubicon, specifically to help with the brand turnaround. Mr. Lewis said in a statement, "We are assembling a small team of world class advisers to work on the turnaround of our reputation and brand. BBH is an outstanding creative agency with an exceptional track record. It will focus on advertising and customer relationship marketing, led by Neil Munn."

Mr. Lewis added, "Both businesses will play a central role as Tesco reconnects with customers and rebuilds trust in the brand in the coming years. I would like to thank Wieden & Kennedy for their creative contribution to the Tesco brand and the professionalism with which they are managing this transition."

BBH has ended its relationship with smaller supermarket Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Partnership, in order to take on the much bigger Tesco task.

Mr. Munn said in a statement, "A unique opportunity has presented itself with Tesco and we are looking forward to working with Dave Lewis and his team. This has meant that we have had to part company with Waitrose."

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