Gillette chooses Grey and Saatchi ahead of Wieden+Kennedy as it narrows $300m shortlist

Well here’s a turn-up; Gillette has dropped agency-of-the-moment Wieden+Kennedy from the shortlist for its $300m account, leaving Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi to compete against incumbent BBDO (Publicis has also been dumped).

Gillette is owned by Procter & Gamble and it looked odds-on that W+K would make it through to the final round at least as it has picked up large swathes of P&G business in recent times, starting with the rejuvenation of tired old Old Spice then, via Ivory soap, to P&G’s highly-successful Olympics promotion.

But Gillette is one of those classic Don’t Drop The Ball accounts; the long-time shaving market leader whose products trade at an improbable premium to the market bolstered by a huge marketing spend. As such it is likely to be highly risk-averse and maybe the Wieden-ites failed to recognise this. Or it lacks the huge global networks offered by Saatchi (owned by Publicis Groupe) and Grey (WPP). BBDO is Omnicom-owned of course. But P&G/Gillette knew that.

Producing yet more boring old advertising of the kind churned out by BBDO in the past is also a risk of course. But BBDO is obviously still in there fighting hard; losing Gillette to W+K would have been a setback to its status as a creative agency (it wins the Gunn Report’s gong for most-awarded network most years) while Saatchi and Grey both have aspirations to its network status. Saatchi has followed a BBDO-like creative path under CEO Kevin Roberts, mostly successfully – it’s now, 20 years or so after Publicis Groupe bought the agency, finally escaped the long shadow of the brothers Saatchi.

As for Grey, it is experiencing a more recent creative rejuvenation under another veteran CEO account man Jim Heekin. Grey New York, led by creative and CEO Tor Myhren is currently riding high with widely-acclaimed work for DirecTV and others. It produced Coca-Cola’s latest instalment in its ‘Open Happiness’ campaign ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ recently, quite an accolade as project-based Coke cherry picks what it sees as the world’s hot agencies these days.

So Gillette has narrowed things down to quite a formidable shortlist. It’s still a surprise to see the exit of W+K though.

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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.