New Guard Gears Up for Review

New senior management is behind Hershey Foods Corp.’s decision to consider a media- consolidation review.

Sources said the advertiser has engaged Chicago-based management consultant A.T. Kearney to assist in the process. Kearney was unavailable for comment.

In March 2001, Richard Lenny, group vp of Kraft Foods and president of Kraft unit Nabisco Biscuit and Snacks, joined Hershey as president and CEO. Three months later, Wynn Willard, president and CEO of Nabisco Ltd. in Canada, joined the confection maker as svp/chief marketing officer, a new position. On Jan. 1, Hershey chairman Kenneth Wolfe retired and Lenny assumed his position in a planned succession.

“Most of the old Hershey guard is gone and there’s this whole new team,” said one source. “So the fact that they’re [consolidating media] comes as no surprise.”

Hershey’s media business is currently split between Omnicom’s OMD and WPP Group’s MindShare, both New York. Omnicom shop DDB and WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, both New York, handle the bulk of Hershey creative. The company spends some $175 million a year advertising its confections under more than 50 brand names, including its eponymous chocolates, Reese’s and LifeSavers.

A Hershey representative denied that the company “was in any kind of active review,” but sources said several media shops have received calls from the Hershey, Pa.-based candy marketer about participating in a search.

“They are currently deciding on a short list of agencies,” said one executive. It was unclear whether a formal RFP would be forthcoming, or what the time frame would be. Media networks with conflicts include Publicis and Cordiant Communications’ Zenith Media, New York, which handles Masterfoods USA unit M&M/Mars; and Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann, the media agency for Nestlé.

Also unclear is the role of longtime Hershey media consultant Marion Locket Egan, a veteran who ran the ExxonMobil media consolidation in 2000. She “seems to have less involvement since the new management team came in,” said one agency executive. Egan was unavailable for comment.

The advertiser currently splits its buying responsibility by dayparts, a system commonly used before media fragmentation, but the structure is now “antiquated,” one executive said.

Another source said the client’s desire to update this buying approach may be addressed during the review.