Carat Jostling For Winn-Dixie Media Buying

At least three agencies are pitching the $60 million media buying business of supermarket chain Winn-Dixie Stores: Carat ICG in Los Angeles and Creative Media and Zenith, both in New York, sources said.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based grocery chain, with 1,150 stores in 14 states, has been quietly conducting a search with the help of longtime shop The William Cook Agency. The intent is to unbundle its media chores, mostly spot buying, to a media buying agency. Cook, also in Jacksonville, would retain planning and creative.
The three contenders have met with Cook to discuss the assignment, but agency president Lura Benton denied a search was taking place. “We have talked to more than three [media] agencies recently, but it was strictly as research,” said Benton. “It in no way had to do with turning any media over to them.”
Benton said Cook has talked with media agencies in the past in an effort to stay “competitive.” When asked why three different media shops would claim to be pitching the business, Benton said, “You’ll have to ask them.”
A Winn-Dixie official said the client was not conducting a media review. When asked if Cook was doing so, questions were referred to the agency.
Executives at the three contending agencies either could not be reached or declined comment.
Winn-Dixie’s labor-intensive advertising projects have grown to the point where a media specialist is needed, sources said, spurring the review. The company’s Hispanic media buying chores are handled by Zubi Advertising in Coral Gables, Fla.
In July, Winn-Dixie reported sharply lower earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in June, despite stronger sales.
The company is now trying to attract new customers by promoting low prices on some items, and boosting sales of others with higher profits, according to analysts.