Unilever's Slim-Fast Taps New Agency, Preps Brand Refresh

MDC Partners' Agency The Bull-White House Appointed to Lead Creative Without a Review

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Just months after launching with the backing of MDC Partners, The Bull-White House has landed on the roster of packaged-goods giant Unilever . The agency will handle lead creative duties for Slim-Fast, including TV, print, digital and experiential.

The Bull-White House joins the Ryan Partnership, which oversees shopper marketing, and Golin Harris, which does public relations and social media for the weight-loss brand.

The appointment came without a review and was based entirely on the credentials of agency leader Matthew Bull. The South African creative had a 15-year career at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Worldwide, during which he headed his own agency in South Africa, Lowe Bull, as well as the network's key London office. Lowe is Unilever 's biggest agency partner and works on a range of brands for the marketer. Slim-Fast's former lead creative shop was New York-based Protagonist.

"[Mr. Bull] has worked on other Unilever brands, and we're happy with his reputation and his strategic thinking," said Kathy O' Brien, VP-foods at Unilever USA. Slim-Fast, though it enjoys great brand awareness, needs a refresh to ensure that its shakes, bars and other products are considered a modern choice for helping women to look and feel their best, she added.

"A new approach is necessary that is more positive and more holistic," said Ms. O' Brien. "The weight-management category is extremely competitive. We're in a time of transition for Slim-Fast and are looking to contemporize the brand. Women are taking a new approach to weight management, and it's more lifestyle-driven than [centered on] deprivation."

Slim-Fast is on the air and in stores with the "Vow to Wow" campaign, which encourages women to use the products to look great for special events, such as vacations and reunions. But Ms. O' Brien said the brand is open to going in new directions based on the advice of The Bull-White House. According to Kantar, annual measured-media spending for Slim-Fast is a little more than $10 million.

The agency shift isn't part of any broader move at Unilever to change assignments but merely represents Slim-Fast's seeking "the best way forward," Ms. O' Brien said.

On the media side, however, the packaged-goods giant is in the midst of a very big move: a global review of its $6-billion-plus global account, that includes media-buying and -planning duties. The process was launched late last year, just over two years after the last review. The focus is on Unilever 's biggest markets: North America, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, India and China. Unilever spent $6.62 billion on worldwide measured media in 2010, according to Ad Age DataCenter.

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