Wrigley takes hard look at BBDO

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Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. is taking a close look at its 70-year relationship with BBDO, Chicago, including compensation and conflict matters.

Wrigley, with the Omnicom Group agency for more than half of the marketer's 112-year history, is the Chicago office's largest and most-prized account, billing $150 million in U.S. media alone. Wrigley is said to account for 50% to 60% of the Chicago office's estimated $11.6 million in revenue.

Wrigley is renegotiating its contract with the agency after reviewing compensation, confirmed Kathryn Olson, Wrigley's VP-consumer marketing since Oct. 2001. "It's been six years or so since we renegotiated and as part of that people were interviewed," she said, adding that they are in the final stages of a new contract. "We will update it every year, based on how many people we think we need on the account," she said. "There is nothing unusual about the contract and I think it is a fair contract for both parties."

During this renegotiation period, BBDO's New York office had been asked to "catalogue" the brands on its eight-year-old Mars account, according to more than one executive close to the company who said the exercise was specifically related to determining whether it constitutes a conflict with Wrigley. Ms. Olson said she wasn't a part of that process, but said "It's very smart for [BBDO] to understand that, given we are working with two of the largest confectionery businesses in the world," she said. "We need to understand that."


When asked whether Wrigley viewed the Mars business as a conflict, she declined to comment. "To do so would require us to indicate where our future is," she said. A spokeswoman at Mars' domestic unit, Masterfoods USA, said she wasn't aware of any conflict. Executives at BBDO, New York and Chicago, both declined to comment.

Considering Wrigley's thwarted overture for Hershey Foods Corp., and rumors about its eyeing Tootsie Roll, Ms. Olson confirmed that "had the Hershey acquisition gone through, that would obviously [have been] a conflict." With products such as its recently introduced Aquadrops, Masterfoods has begun to delve into product segments beyond candy, edging closer to Wrigley's turf.

She and other Wrigley executives were quick to paint their relationship with BBDO as positive and productive, despite rumblings that Wrigley management spurred a host of agency staff changes on the account.

management shifts

In recent months, the agency has made significant shifts to its Wrigley management team. In February, Marty Orzio replaced Phil Gant as chief creative officer, and in August the agency reassigned Stacie Boney, exec VP in charge of the Wrigley account for nearly two decades, to a new post as best practice leader for the agency. She will, however, steward the relaunch of Hubba Bubba, a product of Wrigley's Amurol unit.

On Sept. 26, the agency announced internally that Chris Tussing, a VP on the Wrigley account, was leaving to join sibling DDB, San Francisco, to lead its Clorox business.

Many of those moves followed BBDO's first threat to the account when in January Wrigley handed an assignment for its Extra brand to Omnicom sibling DDB, Chicago, which bowed its "Angry Gumball" spot in April. Although the effort was shelved in July, it marked the first time Wrigley allowed a core brand to be handled by another agency. BBDO has since gone back into production on new Extra executions.

"I'm happy and I feel [BBDO is] putting forth the effort to drive our business," said Ms. Olsen. "I don't see myself or anyone that works for me putting any business" up for review.

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