Unilever puts detergent biz in review

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[London] Unilever is holding a global winner-take-all review of its Omo group of detergent brands and is giving non-roster agencies a shot at the $266 million prize. Currently the business is split between Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe, with about two-thirds of billings, and WPP Group's JWT. A shortlist is expected this week.

Both incumbents have been asked to pitch. Omnicom Group's TBWA, which has no Unilever business, and Bartle Bogle Hegarty are also believed to have been invited. Bartle Bogle, 49%-owned by Publicis Groupe, is a growing favorite of Unilever's and was assigned its first detergent business last year.

The pitch is being run by U.K. agency-search specialist Haystack Group. Lowe handles Omo in the U.S., where it is called Wisk, and in Asia and continental Europe. JWT is the incumbent in the U.K., where Omo is sold under the name Persil and is the best-selling detergent, and parts of Latin America.

Omo's Global Brand Director David Arkwright said, "This is more than a creative pitch-it is an agency review in the true sense; a chance for us to look at the whole ethos and culture around how we look at 21st century approaches to a 21st century brand."

The pitch will be one of Unilever's first big marketing decisions since announcing a restructuring in February. A decision is expected this fall.

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