Smirnoff Ice Returns to JWT

NEW YORK Diageo has shifted global creative duties on its Smirnoff ready-to-drink and flavored malt beverage brands, chief among them Smirnoff Ice, to roster shop JWT from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the client has confirmed. Estimated billings are $30-40 million.

The other brands include Smirnoff Ice Triple Black, Smirnoff Twisted V and Smirnoff Raw Tea. As a result of the shift, WPP Group’s JWT, which already handled creative duties on Smirnoff vodka, will advertise the entire Smirnoff portfolio.

Diageo attributed the shift to a “recent review of its brand and competitor advertising agency conflict policy.” BBH, which handled the business at its New York and London offices, also works for global brewer InBev, handling beer brands such as Boddingtons and Murphy’s out of London.

Beer and “malternative” brands such as Smirnoff Ice are marketed to a similar consumer target and are sold in the same refrigerator cases. That said, BBH’s relationship with InBev is long-standing and the Publicis Groupe-backed shop already handled Boddingtons when it landed Smirnoff Ice, in late 2004.

Before BBH, Smirnoff Ice was at JWT. At the time of the 2004 shift, JWT retained creative duties on Smirnoff vodka.

“JWT has been a great partner and their work has been integral to helping us drive Smirnoff vodka to become the number one premium spirit in the world,” said James Thompson, president of global marketing for white spirits and ready-to-drink brands at Diageo. “The team has a clear understanding of the Smirnoff brand and created the fantastic “Clearly Smirnoff” global advertising campaign for Smirnoff vodka.”

BBH will continue to handle other Diageo brands, including Baileys liqueur and Johnnie Walker scotch. “They have created some fantastic campaigns, such as the recent ‘Tea Party’ [effort] for Smirnoff Raw Tea,” said Thompson. “We look forward to continuing to work with them on our other distilled spirits brands.”

BBH’s current campaign for Smirnoff Ice revolves around Uri, a plain-talking Eastern European who is loyal to the brand, and his best friend, Gorb. The effort, which launched in April 2005, includes TV and radio spots, outdoor ads and a Web site, uriplanet.com, which offers more details about Uri and Gorb.

One of the initial TV spots depicted Uri leading a tour of his house, including a refrigerator. Another spot showed Uri and Gorb traveling to a bar on a sled pulled by a team of Siberian huskies.

U.S. major media spending on Smirnoff Ice has seesawed in recent years. In 2003, spending totaled nearly $40 million, but that figure dropped to about $10 million in 2004 before rising somewhat last year, to nearly $20 million, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. For the first six months of 2006, spending exceeded $5 million.