Lowe now has it 'All'

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Package-goods behemoth Unilever in recent weeks has quietly moved responsibilities for its All detergent to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York, giving the agency a clean hold on its laundry products in the U.S. The account was shifted from WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson Co., New York.

The move is part of Unilever's global repositioning of its brand assignments based on categories and positioning, said Bill Knees, VP-brand development for laundry at Unilever North America. "It makes sense for us to move All to Lowe Lintas because of the work they do on behalf of some of our other value-oriented brands," he said. In Europe, the agency handles Surf, while stateside, the shop has two premium Unilever laundry products: fabric-softener Snuggle (its famous giggling bear is a Lowe Lintas creation) and Wisk.

Unilever spent only about $2 million on All in 2000, and nothing on the brand from January to May this year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. In contrast, the company ponied up $16 million for the same period in 2001 to promote Wisk. But spending on All may increase in the near future, Mr. Knees said. "We intend to put significant support behind All in 2002 to maintain our competitive edge."

All is not unfamiliar to Lowe Lintas, which held the account in the late 1990s prior to a similar shift by Unilever in January 2000-also, Unilever said at the time, for global realignment purposes.

"It is very timely to reassess All given its value positioning in the context of a down economy," said Rob Quish, president, Lowe Lintas. "We're pleased to be sharing some responsibility in their laundry-category management," he added. All is the No. 4 selling liquid detergent and No. 8 powder detergent.

Unilever has been gradually losing market share in laundry detergents in the U.S. for several years, from a 20%-plus share in the mid-1990s to 18.5% of the $4.7 billion category for the 52 weeks ended July 15, according to Information Resources Inc. Premium players, such as category leader P&G and value brands, such as Dial Corp.'s Purex and Church & Dwight's Arm & Hammer, have both gained ground on Unilever in the past year.

Lowe Lintas' new campaign will include traditional TV and print as well as "nontraditional" channels, said Mr. Knees, to "develop a deeper and more widespread relationship with consumers."

The consolidation comes during a year in which Lowe Lintas won the $20 million to $25 million Mass Mutual Financial Services account and Saab U.S.'s $60 million to $65 million account, along with the $400 million Verizon business. Unilever also awarded $70 million to $100 million in business from its Bestfoods acquisition to Lowe Lintas early this year.

On the loss side, Lowe Lintas this year parted with Dell Computer's home and small business unit ($150 million), lost media buying and planning for Schering Plough Corp.'s Claritin ($150 million) and the $80 million creative account for United Parcel Service.

Contributing: Jack Neff

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