Accounts in play: Mars dumps D'Arcy, citing office closure

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Mars terminated its global relationship with Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles just shy of its golden anniversary, citing "philosophical differences and changing priorities."

Agency executives close to Mars said Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, not currently on Mars' roster, is likely to pick up some of the business. Mars did not identify the agencies it is considering, and a TBWA spokesman had no knowledge of new business coming from Mars.

PERIOD OF STRAIN

The billings on the business leaving D'Arcy are estimated at $110 million globally. For all its brands, the marketer spent $692 million globally in 2000. It spent $279 million in measured media in the U.S. during 2001, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

The May 10 move comes after a five-year ed relations between the marketer and the agency, during which revenue for the Mars account at D'Arcy "dropped ... to an all-time low," according to an internal memo obtained by Advertising Age.

In the U.S. alone, D'Arcy handled advertising for Uncle Ben's frozen-meal bowls and dry rice, Skittles, Whiskas and Combos, brands against which Mars' Masterfoods unit spent $66 million in measured media in 2001, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. D'Arcy's key accounts outside the states included Whiskas and Skittles in Europe, Asia and Latin America as well as pet food brands Cesar, Catsan and Frolic in Europe and the Dove and Starburst brands in Asia.

According to D'Arcy's memo, Mars cited the timing of the agency's recently announced closure of its St. Louis office as an official reason for the termination. "Mars didn't believe it was consulted in the right manner [about the closure]...and that especially angered Paul Michaels [president of Mars' Masterfoods USA]," said one agency executive close to the situation. D'Arcy planned to split its Mars accounts between its Los Angeles and New York offices.

The memo also said allegiances with past Mars' executives "may have hurt us with certain individuals [in] key positions in Mars today." One executive close to the companies said Ken Rogers, corporate VP-global marketing at Mars' McLean, Va., headquarters, was not a fan of the agency and had been pushing to consolidate among two core networks vs. three. Mr. Rogers was not available for comment, and a Mars spokeswoman referred to a company statement, which quotes Mr. Rogers as saying, "We believe the present course of action is in our best interest."

The Mars spokeswoman said the D'Arcy business is currently under review and a decision will be made shortly.

Currently, the bulk of Mars' non-D'Arcy business resides with Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, which handles such brands as Snickers, M&M's and Cesar's dog food, and Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, which handles Twix, Starburst and Pedigree dog food among others.

In November, Grey won creative responsibility away from D'Arcy for Masterfoods' Mars bar in Europe and Milky Way bar in the U.S.

contributing: kate macarthur, rich thomaselli, alice z. cuneo, richard linnett.

Fast Facts

Company: Mars

2000 Global Spending:

$692 million

2001 U.S. Spending: $279 million Brands leaving D'Arcy: Uncle Ben's, Whiskas, Combos, Skittles

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