In a surprise move, Unilever on October 13 named Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) to "global strategic and creative stewardship" of its $280 million global advertising account for the detergent brands grouped under the platform "Dirt is good."
The move ends a long agency review that pitted incumbents JWT, part of WPP Group, and Lowe against Bartle Bogle.
"We undertook a rigorous pitch process and ultimately decided that BBH offered the greatest strategic insight, creativity and vision for the future of the brand," said Keith Weed, Group Vice-President for global home care, who was in overall charge of the review and flew back from India earlier this week to announce the winners.
Lowe previously handled about two-thirds of the "Dirt is good" billings, and JWT had the remainder. It's unclear how much Lowe's portion of the newly-divided account will be worth, but losing all its Unilever detergent business would have been a devastating blow for the beleaguered agency.
Bartle Bogle hasn't previously worked on any of the brands included in the common brand position Unilever is developing around the "Dirt is good" idea, but has consistently won Unilever business in multiple categories including detergents over the last couple years.
How work is split
Unilever said in a statement that BBH had won global strategic and creative stewardship for Omo, Persil and Skip. BBH will also lead Persil and Skip in Europe, Wisk and Sunlight in North America, and Omo brands in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Central America.
Working within the worldwide strategic framework that BBH develops, Lowe keeps creative and executional responsibility for Omo in Asia, Africa, Brazil, Bolivia, Paragua and the Caribbean, the company said.
The four-month review, handled by London-based Haystack Group, is the biggest ever conducted by Unilever, for a portfolio of brands with total sales of more than $2.5 billion, ranking just after Dove and Knorr in size.
Although the review was motivated by a desire to have a single global agency network and to improve communications with consumers, support grew during the review for appointing two agencies. That model – using BBH and Lowe – works well for Axe deodorant. Bartle Bogle handles the brand in the US and the UK, where it's known as Lynx, but Lowe's minority-owned Argentine agency, Vegaolmosponce, does inspired work for Axe from Buenos Aires.
The three agencies were briefed last spring and toiled over the summer on the presentations they made to Unilever execs in London at the end of September. Although Bartle Bogle went it alone, both JWT and Lowe pulled in resources elsewhere in their holding companies – and even from outside. JWT, for instance, involved Graham Bednash from London media strategist Michaelides & Bednash to help devise media neutral strategies.
"Dirt is good" is a single concept Unilever has been rolling out globally that unites detergent brands with a dozen different names like Omo, Persil, Ala and Via in a common positioning. "Dirt is good" extols the freedom to explore life and grow, through carefree activities like playing, sports and art that create a need for a stain-busting detergent.
Eight Unilever decision makers
Eight Unilever decision makers were at the pitches, including Simon Clift, president of marketing for the home and personal care division, and Keith Weed, group vice president for global home care; Joao dos Campos and Robert Davidson, the heads of the European and Latin American detergent businesses; as well as Aline Santos, who takes over as global detergent director from David Arkwright, who is leaving the company next month.
Media, which Unilever frequently reviews on a country-by-country basis, is assigned in most markets to either WPP's MindShare or Interpublic's Initiative and occasionally Universal McCann, and was not affected by the detergent review.