‘We seem to have struck a nerve,’ General Mills CMO says of agency review


June 7, 2019 10:25 pm

General Mills is trying to squelch rumors about its ongoing North American agency review without divulging too much about the process.

“We seem to have struck a nerve,” Chief Marketing Officer Ivan Pollard wrote in a statement issued late Friday. “Whilst we do not normally discuss our confidential RFP’s, I feel it is now time to comment and ensure that the facts are properly stated.” 

In the statement, Pollard notes that several articles, op-eds and opinion pieces have been written about the request for proposals issued by the packaged-foods company, maker of Cheerios, Yoplait, Annie’s and other food lines.

Pollard doesn’t single out any reports in his statement. But earlier today, Adweek published a report in which Bernadette Rivero, president of production company The Cortez Brothers, discussed the alleged terms of the request for proposals, including asking agencies to pitch for free and to relinquish control of the creative that they present.

“As far as our terms within the RFP, the majority of these terms are consistent with our previous agency reviews,” Pollard says in the statement. “For payment terms, which as reported in articles, are in line with several other big marketers, we offer many ways to alleviate the financial burden on agencies.”

He also addresses concerns about intellectual property.

“I know that IP ownership has also been a big topic of conversation. I acknowledge that there are times when agencies pitch similar ideas and, in these instances, we must protect ourselves. If agencies have a great idea or concept for our brands, it is likely we will want to work with them.”

Without fully confirming the details of the financial implications of the review, Pollard makes it clear that spending is being taken into consideration.

“I worked agency side for many years, and I understand the challenges in agency business models. I also understand the value that a great agency can bring,” he writes. “However, we are also in business and managing our cashflow is a vital corporate function.”

Pollard says General Mills has “excellent relationships” with the “several agencies” that work on its brands. He also says General Mills hasn’t had creative agencies of record for nearly three years. In late 2016, before Pollard joined, General Mills selected MDC Partners’ 72andSunny and Redscout as its primary U.S. creative agencies and then added Joan Creative, Erich & Kallman and The Community to the roster to work on projects. That review drew attention for another reason: General Mills required any agencies in the process to be staffed with at least 50 percent women and 20 percent people of color within the creative department.

General Mills declined to comment on the agencies involved in the pitch and could not be immediately reached for further comment late Friday.

It was not immediately clear which agencies remain in the pitch or when the company plans to announce the winners. “Several agencies approached us to work with us: some of those same agencies are now amongst the ones voicing concern over our proposals,” he says. Pollard also says some of the agencies General Mills approached chose not to proceed.

Pollard, who joined General Mills in July 2017 after six years at Coca-Cola, was previously a global partner at connections planning company Naked Communications and had roles at agencies including BMP and Wieden & Kennedy. He was also a founding partner of Unity, which was acquired by the Ingram Partnership.

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