|Old Spice has been stung by the success of Unilever's Axe brand.
Saatchi was incumbent
The move comes despite years of market-share gains by Old Spice under incumbent Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, making Old Spice the No. 1 men’s deodorant brand in the U.S. But Old Spice has had trouble matching the creative firepower of Unilever’s even-faster-growing Axe brand and has failed in several attempts to gain traction in the body-spray segment Axe dominates.
Wieden & Kennedy first joined the P&G roster in June, winning the Eukanuba pet-food account from Saatchi and a project in Canada for Ivory, which has no agency of record. But winning Old Spice, a brand with distribution in 30 countries, gives the newcomer a much larger presence with P&G. In the U.S. alone, P&G spends about $80 million on Old Spice.
Big idea lacking
Like some other P&G brands, Old Spice has struggled in recent years to develop an umbrella campaign behind a big advertising idea that can win management acceptance.
“We’re always seeking best-in-class agencies to bring expertise and creative energy to our brands,” Paolo de Cesare, president-global skin care, personal cleansing and deodorants for P&G, said in a statement. “Wieden & Kennedy has an impressive brand-building track record, particularly with men.”
By giving Wieden sweeping duties on Old Spice even before its work on its other P&G assignments has hit market, P&G is throwing its traditional caution on agency matters to the wind. Mr. De Cesare, a rising management star who has in the past brought in non-roster agencies to “consult” on brands, is taking a bigger risk by going with an agency still relatively untried by P&G.
A P&G spokeswoman cited Wieden’s track record on predominantly men’s brands such as Nike, ESPN and Coca-Cola Co.’s Powerade, as well as a desire to “work with an agency that doesn’t know us so well,” as key factors behind the move.
Those reasons, too, account for having Wieden handle communications planning and media buying in North America, the P&G spokeswoman said, characterizing it as a test. The move represents a sharp about-face from trends at P&G and the industry at large in recent years.
Less than two years ago, P&G adopted communications planning agencies of record -- including Starcom MediaVest Group, incumbent on Old Spice, and Aegis Group’s Carat -- severing the hold its creative agencies once had on media planning. Seven years ago, P&G made Starcom its media-buying agency across all U.S. brands, uncoupling buying from creative shops.
The P&G spokeswoman said the decision isn’t meant as the first step in a broader move away from unbundling communications and media buying from creative, noting that SMG will continue to work closely with Wieden on Old Spice.
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Lisa Sanders contributed to this report