TBWA resigns £25m Muller – a split was surely coming but it’s still a surprise

We noted in November that TBWA London’s tenure of the £25m Muller account was looking rather shaky as the Bavarian-owned yogurt maker sacked its senior UK management and brought in hard-nosed former Nestle Austria boss Ronald Kers (pictured).

But TBWA has got its retaliation in first by resigning the account, its biggest win this year and for some time. And this is still pretty surprising as big multinational-owned agencies don’t go for big resignations very often these days. TBWA London boss Robert Harwood-Matthews says: “We had some brave clients and we all know we did something wunderful (sic), no regrets.”

Harwood-Matthews is referring to the now-departed Muller executives and the agency’s ‘Wunderful stuff’ campaign.

This, with its extensive (and expensive no doubt) line-up of cartoon characters is a tour de force in many ways. But what agencies keep forgetting these days is that food companies like their food to look appealing, or at least get a few more seconds of screen time. This usually, although not always, means showing people eating it. If not, they like a bit of Marks & Spencer-like food porn.

Burger King in the US sacked Crispin Porter+Bogusky in the summer in favour of Mcgarrybowen despite the former’s much-lauded ‘the king’ campaign. Burger King’s latest management (it has had rather a lot) prefers this:

To this:

Can’t say I blame them really. Anyway, the point is that you can bet the house that the next UK advertising to emerge from Muller will be somewhat more traditional than ‘Wunderful stuff.’

For TBWA the whole affair is a kick in the teeth, not least for new Brazilian creative director Andre Laurentino, hired to import some Latin American pizazz to the London agency. ‘Wunderful stuff’ shows the talent that’s there. But the point of producing creative advertising isn’t to get your clients fired in the process.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.