Ex-Ogilvy Executives Win National Peanut Board

After an agency review that held few surprises, the National Peanut Board awarded its marketing business to Steve Saari and Bob Coyle.

The two former Ogilvy & Mather and J. Walter Thompson executives will manage the advertising portion of the $8-9 million business as an Atlanta affiliate of Lawler Ballard Van Durand in Birmingham, Ala.

The Atlanta-based NPB, which promotes the interests of farmers across the South and Southwest, also selected Golin/Harris here to provide public relations support.

Creative director Saari and account manager Coyle [Adweek, Oct. 1] were part of Ogilvy’s Atlanta team that originally won the NPB account in 2000. The business then moved to JWT after WPP folded Ogilvy’s operations into that agency last spring.

When NPB executive director Marie Rizzo commissioned another agency review last July, Saari and Coyle bolted to court the business on their own, then forged an alliance with Lawler president Tinsley Van Durand.

“We’re not trying to establish an Atlanta beachhead for Lawler Ballard,” insisted Van Durand. “We’re trying to get Saari, a very talented creative director, back on our payroll. The problem was he wouldn’t move to Birmingham.”

Saari served as creative director at Lawler in the mid-1990s.

Sources familiar with the NPB, funded by 1 percent of the annual $1 billion U.S. peanut harvest, suggested the advertising portion of the account represented a “small fraction” of the board’s annual spending.

The bulk of the expenditures is earmarked for research, promotion and educational initiatives.

Saari and Coyle plan to hire additional staffers for their Atlanta operation, including a media buyer and art director.

“We’re in a dead sprint,” said Coyle, “trying to get up and running by November 1.”