Woolworths drops Leo Burnett Sydney for M&C Saatchi to handle supermarket creative

Woolworths logoWoolworths has appointed M&C Saatchi as its creative partner for its supermarkets account, ending the supermarkets’ relationship with Leo Burnett.

It is the supermarket’s third agency in less than two years after Leo Burnett picked up the account in April 2014 without a pitch, taking the account from the now defunct Droga5 Sydney.

Woolworths is one of the biggest advertisers in Australia, but has suffered numerous setbacks and misfires in the past year with campaigns widely derided by the public.

The win is timely for M&C Saatchi which earlier this year lost a large chunk of the Optus creative account with the retail business moving to Big Red, however was retained on the enlarged roster.

Jaimes Leggett, M&C Saatchi CEO

Jaimes Leggett, M&C Saatchi CEO

In a statement M&C Saatchi CEO Jaimes Leggett said: “Woolworths is one of Australia’s largest advertisers, one of the country’s most valuable brands and one of the most sought-after accounts. We couldn’t be more excited to be back working with the Woolies team.”

In a statement, Leo Burnett Sydney CEO Pete Bosilkovski, said: “The Woolworths Supermarket business is in a state of significant change. We wish them all the best.

“I want to thank our talented people for their incredible hard work and unrelenting commitment over the two years.

“As always, our focus now is on our people, especially those directly affected by this change.”

However the agency will retain the Big W business it won from Saatchi & Saatchi last year despite the other changes. It is thought the change could affect around 40 jobs at Leo Burnett.

Leo Burnett won the main Woolworths business when Tony Philips came in as chief marketing officer of the brand from rival, Coles, ending its two-year relationship with Droga5, which had taken the business from M&C Saatchi in 2012.

Leo Burnett moved to change the tenor of the advertising, launching a new strapline ‘Cheap Cheap’ to rival Coles’ ‘Down Down’ tag.

The campaign included animated birds and a series of ads featuring former X Factor winner Samantha Jade.

woolworths fresh in our memory meme generatorHowever the brand ran into controversy last year after creating an Anzac themed campaign centred around the tagline ‘Fresh in our memories’ which was the butt of derision on social media. 

Weeks later Philips departed the chief marketer role abruptly, with the position sitting vacant until the recent appointment of Andrew Hicks to the post.

Woolworths last worked with M&C Saatchi, which starts work on the account immediately, in 2011 when it lost the business to Droga5.

The agency had worked with the brand since 2002 with M&C Saatchi’s retail head, Luke Dunkerly helping to set up the agency’s retail division which went on the help guide the supermarket into the position of being Australia’s strongest retail brand.

Dunkerly so impressed Woolworths’ executives that they poached him to run marketing on the brand.

Dunkerly was recently handed the job of Marketing Masters hardware while the business is prepped for sale.

Back on the Woolies account: Andy DiLallo

Back on the Woolies account: Andy DiLallo

Observers have wasted little time drawing a line between the luring of M&C Saatchi executive creative director Andy Di Lallo over from Leo Burnett last year where he oversaw the business.

Similarly M&C Saatchi’s strategy lead Justin Graham was at Droga5 when it handled the Woolworths account.

At the same time, M&C’s long history on the business has also been noted.

“They know that business absolutely,” one observer said.

“They will settle in with it very easily, even though there have been a lot of changes at Woolworths. It is probably the right place for them to be.”

The Woolworths release:

Woolworths today announced that it has engaged M&C Saatchi as its key creative partner for its Supermarkets account.

Woolworths Director of Marketing Andrew Hicks, said: “We’re delighted to be starting a new partnership with M&C Saatchi. They have a formidable client list including some iconic and complex Australian brands and we’re very happy to be adding Woolworths to that list.”

“We have a solid foundation to build on with our price position and long-standing reputation as the Fresh Food People. With M&C Saatchi, we now look forward to creating a new generation of work that supports the next phase of our transformation.”

M&C Saatchi Group CEO, Jaimes Leggett, said, “Woolworths is one of Australia’s largest advertisers, one of the country’s most valuable brands and one of the most sought-after accounts. We couldn’t be more excited to be back working with the Woolies team.”

Mr Hicks thanked outgoing agency Leo Burnett for their work with Woolworths over the past two years.

“Leo Burnett have brought their skills and ability to our diverse business. We thank them for their work in that time, including the relaunch of the Fresh Food People commercials, Low Price Always and most recently our Make It Famous Christmas campaign.”


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