Masterfoods USA has appointed Arnell Group Worldwide, a small shop based in Manhattan’s SoHo, as primary marketing development agency for its entire M&M/Mars, Uncle Ben's and Mars Pet Food product range – which between them spent $289 million on measured media in 2000.

The move, which could presage an advertising sea-change among other major brand-owners, positions Omnicom-owned Arnell as the new advertising point of departure for all Masterfoods’ new and existing product development.

Explains Masterfoods’ vp and general manager, chocolate, Bob Gamgort: “Arnell will handle front-end work, which means they will be involved in defining the product proposition and helping to determine how to communicate that in an innovative way. We're serious about innovating at a higher rate and getting into new business areas, and this is marketing R&D at its core.”

Existing roster shops Grey Worldwide (a unit of Grey Global Group), D'Arcy (Bcom3) and BBDO Worldwide (Omnicom) will work in tandem with Arnell on projects such as R&D, brand positioning, naming, package design – even media planning. According to Gamgort: “Arnell’s ideas will be executed by roster agencies and in some cases, Arnell itself.”

The trio are putting a brave face on Arnell’s fait accompli. D’Arcy account director Larson Stiegemeyer believes the deal “seems like it will be a good match for the ad agencies”. He then followed-up with a plug for D'Arcy: “We've not done new-product work per se but we bring a depth of knowledge to the brands that's useful at those early stages.”

In New York, BBDO Worldwide ceo Andrew Robertson lauded his Omnicom confrère Peter Arnell, president/ceo of the eponymous shop, as “an incredibly innovative thinker, and he's incredibly good at doing stuff that other people don't do or can't do. What he does dovetails very neatly with what we do. Our entire Mars team is engaged with him, but his real link is directly into Mars.”

Arnell personally clinched the prestigious business because of his experience with non-packaged goods industries – a magnet to Masterfoods in its desire to acquire a fresh approach to brand-building. Of equal appeal, revealed Gamgort, was Arnell's talent for conjuring “further-out stuff that puts us in a very different place.”

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