ConAgra Makes Grey Its Choice

With the expansion of ConAgra’s Healthy Choice brand introducing conflicts with some of Campbell Mithun Esty’s other clients, the company last week shifted the reduced-calorie foods line from the Minneapolis agency to Grey Advertising in New York.
The move consolidated most products under the Healthy Choice brand at Grey. The line’s bread and popcorn products will remain at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago for now, but will eventually be moved to Grey, said Lynn Phares, ConAgra’s vice president of corporate relations. C-K also handles Healthy Choice cereal, marketed by Kellogg under license from ConAgra.
Sources said the Healthy Choice advertising represented billings of $30-40 million for CME, which had been lead agency for the brand since its introduction in 1988.
The decision to centralize at Grey was driven by a shift to an umbrella marketing strategy for the entire Healthy Choice brand, said Phares. Although the products had been marketed under a common tagline, “Eat what you like,” the advertising was primarily product-specific, she said.
Healthy Choice began as a low-calorie line of frozen dinners, but has since has expanded to include more than 300 products.
That horizontal extension and the shift to an umbrella marketing strategy presented conflicts with some of CME’s other food clients, such as Borden, Interstate Bakeries Corp., General Mills, Domino’s and Land O’ Lakes. “As Healthy Choice has grown, conflicts had begun to develop [at CME],” Phares said. “It became clear that we needed an agency that could move across categories.”
After deciding to move the account, ConAgra officials quietly held informal discussions with three agencies, including Grey, Phares said. Sources said Bozell, New York, was one of the shops considered; officials there could not be reached for comment.
CME will continue to handle ConAgra’s Armour-Swift-Eckrich and Van Camp’s accounts. Agency officials were not available for comment. –with Hank Ki