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Coles pitch down to two as WPP exits due to production conflict


WPP has been asked to withdraw from the Coles pitch, as the retail giant continues its hunt for a bespoke agency model, Mumbrella can reveal.

This leaves Omnicom and Publicis Groupe as the two remaining groups in the running for one of Australia’s largest accounts, combining media, strategic and creative.

And then there were two

The decision comes as a statement issued to Mumbrella by Coles pointed to “a future conflict” for WPP. Mumbrella understands its production hub, Hogarth has entered into a deal with its cross-town rivals, Woolworths, precluding it from working with Coles on its integrated solution.

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A Coles spokesperson told Mumbrella: “Coles is very much looking forward to the ongoing process of creating a new bespoke agency model to gain even greater synergies in the way its creative, media, and strategic work is performed. Coles requested that WPP no longer participate in the RFP after becoming aware of a future conflict which would prevent the agency working on the account.”

As part of the deal, Woolworths Group is engaging Hogarth to handle production duties for its subsidiary brands, Big W and Dan Murphy’s.

Woolworths and Hogarth have been contacted, but Mumbrella is awaiting a response at the time of publishing. WPP declined to comment.

With industry chatter and speculation pointing to a Woolworths media pitch later on this year, it is expected WPP will look to strengthen its relationship with Woolworths then. An industry source suggested that choosing production work for the subsidiary brands over the chance at Coles’ full bag would suggest WPP is confident something is on the cards.

The current Woolworths contract runs until later this year.

Coles is seeking a bespoke model that is “future-proofed” to deliver what the brand needs “not only today and tomorrow” but beyond that, Sam McLeod, general manager brand, digital and design, and who is also leading the search for a new group partner, told Mumbrella recently.

Inviting WPP, Omnicom and Publicis to the pitch, McLeod said came after the brand chose the three international groups after identifying them as those having the breadth and depth of experience and skills to service those needs, as well as having proven both domestically and internationally that they are capable of doing so.

Omnicom currently services Coles for both its media and creative duties, with DDB, TBWA and OMD on its current roster. OMD was appointed as media agency in mid-2016, replacing UM Australia. 

Both DDB and TBWA joined Big Red in 2020. Big Red was the supermarket giant’s lead creative agency for a decade, with the relationship ending this year with Coles’ new model.

Coles asked each of the agency groups to pitch based on operational capabilities, not on creative ideas.

More to come.



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