Coles shelves others, carries on with Omnicom, brings in Deloitte for bespoke agency ‘Smith St’

Mumbrella can reveal that Coles has opted to stick with its existing agency partners in Omnicom, with OMD, TBWA, and DDB on the brand’s roster to deliver media, creative, CX and more capabilities, in what has been termed the “pitch of the century” so far. It is understood that Deloitte was also brought in to be part of a bespoke agency that will be called ‘Smith Street’.

The incumbents beat out a combined Accenture Song and Initiative pairing.

The decision comes after a highly publicised pitch, which initially consisted of the three listed competitors, a full-service Publicis Groupe offering, an incumbent Omnicom solution, and the combined Accenture Song/Initiative solution. The list was cut down to just the latter two in May, with Publicis being notified it had not made the cut. 

It is understood the bespoke agency ‘Smith Street’ will be housed in Richmond, Melbourne, with the name derived from Coles’ first ever store.

According to Coles “The Smith Street team will be handpicked from across Omnicom Group. Omnicom Group, who at a group level were the successful agency in the RFP process, will supercharge the skills around the table at Smith Street with experts across their network and work with existing partners Deloitte Digital to bring data and analytics to the core of Coles Marketing.”

Coles’ first store in Collingwood

“With customer obsession at the heart of Coles’ strategy, Smith Street will be created as a Customer Centre of Excellence designed to have a one team approach to creative, media and digital marketing activity for Coles Group. The new structure will also be a cornerstone in supporting Coles Group in providing more meaningful and personalised customer communication, insights and reporting.”

Smith Street board members include:

Lisa Ronson – Coles Group Chief Marketing Officer; Samantha McLeod – Coles General Manager Brand, Digital and Design; Kate Bailey – Coles General Manager Media and Sponsorships; Peter Horgan – Omnicom Media Group CEO; Andrew Little – DDB CEO; Sian Whitnall – OMD CEO; Kimberlee Wells – CEO, TBWA; Mike Napolitano – DDB Managing Director; Katherine Battle-Schulz – Deloitte Digital Partner

Sources tell Mumbrella the Coles team was “blown away” by the Accenture pitch, however still ended up siding with Omnicom, with agencies OMD, DDB, and TBWA previously on the retailer’s agency roster, alongside Big Red.

Coles’s Ronson makes the biggest call of her career to date at the retailer

Lisa Ronson said: “Our marketing strategy is to position Coles as the most trusted and sustainable retailer in Australia by demonstrating our purpose through relevant omni channel experiences, focusing on targeted
trusted value, sustainability, loyalty and health & happiness,” Lisa said.

“This process has ensured going forward we will have one lead, one home and one ambition for the Coles marketing team and will have a structure that moves at the pace of Coles customers.”

General Manager of Brand, Digital and Design Samantha McLeod said she looks forward to the newly created agency generating strategic outcomes for marketing across the whole of Coles
Group’s business.

“Smith Street will operate as a world-class network of creative and media experts with a unified goal and agenda to achieve Coles’ strategic outcomes, rather than a group of different agencies operating independently, which will lead to more impactful and effective communications and interactions with our customers.”

The new contract will come into effect on 1 January 2023, with the incumbents continuing to service the account, alongside what will then see an increased amount of services move in house.

Creative agencies DDB and TBWA were only added to the roster in 2020, with Big Red, the lead agency on the roster for over a decade.

According to Nielsen, Coles Group was the 10th largest media spender in 2021. In 2019 when the last brand figures were released, Coles spent an estimated $91 million, shy of its rival Woolworths Group at $118 million. It is thought this figure has breached the $100 million number as of 2022.

The move caps off a mega two weeks for Omnicom, and more specifically OMD, which won the consolidated master media account for the NSW Government.

Both Omnicom and IPG have been locking horns in recent months competing for several of the largest accounts in the country, including the NSW Government (UM), with Bank of Queensland also consolidating with Initiative, previously sitting at OMD.

The move comes as part of a marketing overhaul for the brand, which launched a retail media division earlier this year, led by Brooks. It is thought Coles is seeking to make up ground on its rival Woolworths, which houses a bespoke ‘innovation hub’ in Surry Hills, containing all of its marketing services. Woolworths own retail media outfit, Cartology recently marked three years in operation.

Industry figures had questioned how Accenture Song and The Monkeys would produce output for Coles at the scale required for the brand, with the majority of its marketing as a retailer based on churn, rather than less consistent branding work.

DDB on the other hand has a more significant track record working at scale with clients, including McDonald’s.

A large portion of this work was previously handled by Big Red. Mumbrella reported in May that following internal displeasure, Big Red was invited back on a “special tender” to help service the day-to-day creative and content needs of the retailer, however was ultimately dropped once again.


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