Suissa Miller Secures Gallo Job

Suissa Miller, which recently accepted an assignment from the E&J Gallo Winery, believes past complaints from agencies about the client are simply sour grapes.

Representatives of the Los Angeles shop and the Modesto, Calif., vintner declined to share details of the assignment, to be launched in 2001, but confirmed they have struck a deal.

Gallo has been without a lead agency since FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, resigned the account in April, citing irreconcilable differences. FCB handled the account for seven years. Today, Gallo spreads its estimated $15-20 million advertising account among several undisclosed shops.

For Suissa Miller principals David Suissa and Bruce Miller, joining the Gallo roster represents a return to their roots. Both admen began their careers working on the Paul Masson wine account at Doyle Dane Bernbach in Los Angeles.

“David and I started our relationship in the wine business 18 years ago. It’s great to be back,” Miller said. “It was literally my first job in advertising.”

“We’ve watched them grow, and we’ve watched the calibre of their work improve,” Gallo vp of marketing Gerry Glasgow said of Suissa Miller. Asked if the project might lead to an expanded relationship, Glasgow said, “If they do good work, the answer is yes.”

Gallo, though, has long had a reputation as a difficult client, and a number of agency sources last week suggested Suissa Miller may want to buckle in for the ride.

“Boy, was that an experience,” said one source who has worked on the account. “They’re an extraordinarily challenging client.”

Glasgow said the company has been doing fine without a lead agency, and received plenty of interest from shops in recent months. “People can think what they want,” he said. “We had overnight inquires from all over the country from agencies who wanted to work with us” after FCB resigned the business, he said.

“It’s only a tough client when it’s not yours,” Miller said.

The world’s largest winery, E&J Gallo has long been a big adver tiser, promoting a variety of products including jug table wines, wine coolers such as Bartles & Jaymes and upscale varietal labels such as Gallo of Sonoma. Its other brands include Turning Leaf, Gossamer Bay and Indigo Hills.

For Suissa Miller, the win follows last month’s pickup of Princess Cruises, worth $20-25 million.