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Atlanta Allies Win Interface

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ATLANTA Interface has tapped Trone Atlanta and EAI to handle brand development, advertising and corporate communications, the client confirmed.

The Atlanta-based floor covering manufacturer conducted a review that began in October. Among the agencies contending for the estimated $5 million account were: Omnicom's BaylessCronin, WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, and Sawyer Riley Compton, all in Atlanta; branding specialist Pentagram in New York; WPP's Landor Associates in San Francisco; and McKinney + Silver in Raleigh, N.C., a unit of Paris-based Havas.

When Trone and crosstown design firm EAI both advanced to the final round with McKinney, executives from the Atlanta shops decided to join forces.

The collaboration made sense, said Trone president Jackson Houk, because of the composition of the contender list. "They [Interface] were looking at a combination of design firm, ad agencies and brand firms," Houk said. "They were also looking for elegant representation of their product because it appeals to high-end designers and architects."

Houk said he and EAI president Tod Martin thought that their respective shops' strengths would complement each other. "There's not a lot of overlap," Houk said. "But there was an opportunity to make each other better."

Houk said the alliance and both shops' proximity to the client's Atlanta corporate office and its LaGrange, Ga., factory helped secure the win.

"We offered an elegant solution to their problem and a willingness to take them in a different direction than they'd intended," Houk said.

According to Martin, the Trone/EAI team's approach was distinguished by a willingness to "go the distance" during the review process. "We traveled with their sales force to other states, did interviews and paid calls on customers and end users," Martin said. "There was a willingness on our part to understand the workings of their business on a sales and brand level. I think that was a distinguishing factor."

Trone will handle media and public relations, direct and print advertising. Some broadcasting is in the mix as the primarily business-to-business account may shift toward consumer marketing.

"They had been grown by acquisition for 30 years and are ready to focus on core business and grow organically," said Houk. "And this requires marketing."

EAI, which will oversee brand strategy with Trone, will design collateral, sales materials and the company's annual report.

Previously, Interface relied on a variety of agencies for each of its separate brands.

"Their future is to go past a one-to-one marketing effort," said Martin. "They don't try to achieve mass marketing, but they are moving towards creating leverage and creating demand."