Masterfoods alters its mix

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Mars' Masterfoods USA has struck an extraordinary agreement with Arnell Group, naming Arnell its principal "marketing development" agency. Bob Gamgort, Masterfoods' VP-general manager, chocolate, said Arnell will "handle front-end work, which means they will be involved in defining the product proposition and helping to determine how to communicate that in an innovative way."

Translation: Arnell is to shake up the status quo among Masterfoods' products and current agencies.

Arnell, a unit of Omnicom Group, will have a free hand to work in a variety of areas, from positioning, product naming and package design to media and advertising-all in an effort to foster fully integrated marketing efforts. It will be involved across the full breadth of Masterfoods' brands (M&M/Mars candies, Uncle Ben's Rice and Kal Kan pet foods), which are currently handled by a trio of primary agencies: Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide.

Mr. Gamgort terms the relationship between Arnell and those shops "complementary vs. competitive," but there inevitably will be some keen rivalry among those in Masterfoods' agency stable. That can be a great thing for the marketer; it already has a reputation for cutting-edge new products and out-of-the-box promotional ideas. But Masterfoods must manage to keep perspective by giving all its agency partners a chance to present new ideas. The addition of Arnell, in fact, practically guarantees a host of innovations from all its shops as they jockey for position.

No one agency has a lock on innovation, and Masterfoods needs to respect that. While Arnell is now a resource-indeed a primary resource-for Masterfoods' cupboard full of products, it's not the only one. Both the company and its agencies must recognize that each can play a crucial role for this unconventional arrangement to work long term.

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