AMSTERDAM — AkzoNobel has consolidated global communications and public affairs duties with MSLGroup, the Holmes Report can reveal, following a keenly-contested competitive review that saw the Dutch MNC review pitches from the major holding groups.

The global mandate, believed to be worth between €5m to €10m, was revealed by the Holmes Report in January — focusing on AkzoNobel's corporate brand, including some aspects of support for Dulux and the numerous other paint, performance coating and chemical brands that the $15bn Dutch MNC owns.

MSLGroup takes charge of a wide-ranging public relations remit that includes brand strategy, design, digital strategy, sustainability, corporate and public affairs, across AkzoNobel's operations in Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific.

The assignment marks one of MSLGroup's biggest global wins since the Publicis Groupe network came into force in 2009, with AkzoNobel corporate relations director Leslie McGibbon pointing to the firm's stable of agencies as a pivotal factor in the selection decision.

"That was one of the attractions — a single group with a strong stable of agencies so we can get world-class support no matter what the discipline," McGibbon told the Holmes Report. "We went through a tough and very rigorous review — with MSL we saw a depth in the quality. We're looking for wide-ranging depth of support across corporate affairs, sustainability, design, digital and PR, globally. It's difficult to find that spread and quality of discipline consistently within a group."

AkzoNobel has previously worked with more than 100 agencies across the world, including Edelman and Portland. "It will certainly go down to a lot less," said McGibbon. "The majority of our communications and public affairs work will go into MSLGroup."

MSLGroup's agency roster includes the core firm's consumer and digital offering, along with specialist expertise in such areas as corporate/PA (CNC), sustainability (Salterbaxter) and design (MSL London). The assignment will be led from London by CNC MD Ben Curson, supported by local MSL offices and affiliates.

The review came one year after AkzoNobel corporate relations director Leslie McGibbon told the Holmes Report of his work to centralise communications, in a bid to ensure that the company behaves more like an operating company with its own brand. The hire of a single agency group, he added, will help deliver "a far more consistent approach to building an AkzoNobel brand around the world."

In particular, said McGibbon, the company is seeking to bolster its sustainability credentials, continue elevating its digital approach and build its employer brand. MSLGroup will also support the company's global programs — including Human Cities, the Volvo Ocean Race, Color of the Year and Imagine Chemistry — all of which attempt to underscore AkzoNobel's  commitment to sustainability, innovation and the societies in which it operates.

Those factors remain important as AkzoNobel seeks to remain independent after rejecting a series of takeover proposals from US rival PPG Industries. 

"We really want to keep pushing the boundaries in terms of our creativity and the innovative way we look at doing these things," he said. "We wanted to ensure we had the right level of agency support centrally and around the world for the big comms agenda we have."  

Since joining AkzoNobel, McGibbon has implemented a wide-ranging restructuring of the communications function, which has included a number of new departments, along with a regional structure that aims to share communications resources across the paint, performance coating and chemicals divisions.

Previously, each division functioned as a standalone entity with its own communications and marketing departments. Communications now report into McGibbon, who has also created new global departments and roles for such areas as content and creative services; planning; social listening; internal engagement; and, public affairs.

The review was handled by Creativebrief.