Mars tests giving PR firms global roles for the first time

Freuds, Omnicom PR Group, Edelman, and Weber Shandwick are the firms that were handed worldwide assignments.

MCLEAN, VA: Mars is giving four agency groups a test run on global assignments for its individual brands. It is the first time the company has handed global contracts to communications shops.

London-based Freuds will work globally on M&Ms and Seeds of Change, Omnicom PR Group on Orbit and Extra, Edelman on Skittles, and Weber Shandwick on Pedigree. The test period will begin next year and run for 18 months to two years.

Mars is hoping the strategy will maximize the reach of existing campaigns and help it execute new PR-led platforms globally.

"In brand strategy, PR has primarily played either a local market implementation role or a market brand strategy role; it has never been involved at the global level," said Andy Pharoah, VP of corporate affairs and strategic initiatives at Mars. "We think there is an opportunity for PR to play a much broader role."

Early this year, Mars began talking to its agency partners about the idea and held a pitch at the beginning of October.

"We got our CMOs together, along with our corporate affairs leaders, invited some agencies in, gave them three broad briefs, and asked them to talk to us about the role PR plays on those brands," said Pharoah. "We made decisions brand-by-brand about who we would like to work with."

The company wants to test three concepts with the structure: whether it makes a difference when an agency has a global role and a market role; if there are benefits to a PR agency being more closely connected to a creative firm; and how successful PR-led ideas and a communications-led brand support model can be, as well as PR in a supporting role.

For instance, Mars works with BBDO and DDB globally on creative. By bringing Omnicom PR into that mix, the company wants to see if the overall marketing improves. Pharoah added that Weber has done "a lot of great work" for Mars in the U.S. market, so it wanted to see the results of Weber leading on PR globally, as well as in a market like the U.S.

"Consumers are engaging with brands in very different ways and the ability of companies to engage with consumers is very different," said Pharoah. "Digital and social has changed everything so that strategically we believe PR and its wider disciplines can play a more significant role in the marketing mix."

He added that the company realizes "not everything will work, but some of it will work."

The budget has not yet been agreed upon, said Pharoah, and no new roles have been created at Mars due to the changes.

This story was updated on November 10 to correct the wording in a Pharoah quote.

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