After a year-long review, Winn-Dixie Stores awarded its $42 million marketing account to Cramer-Krasselt.
"It's been too long," admitted Winn-Dixie spokesman Mickey Clerc, "but we saw the presentations and made our decision."
The Chicago-based agency called upon all its resources, including staffers from its Orlando, Fla., Phoenix, and Milwaukee units, to defeat 35-year incumbent Cook Marketing Communications in Jacksonville, Fla. C-K will split the business between Chicago, which will handle media and some creative, and Orlando, where account services will be headquartered, according to agency CEO Peter Krivkovich. Krivkovich said the win probably would result in new hires, but couldn't say how many.
The Bozell Group in New York lent its firepower to Cook during the pitch, including personal appearances by Bozell chairman and CEO, Gene Bartley.
The visits triggered speculation that a buy-out of Cook was in the works, pending the successful outcome of the review. Sources close to Bozell suggest that deal is no longer a possibility.
"I'm sure that Mike Russell and all of the people at Cook Communications are disappointed by Winn-Dixie's decision. After all, for 35 years they bled the client's blood and sweat the client's tears," Bartley said.
Cook employees, anticipating layoffs in the aftermath of the loss of the shop's mainstay business, were contacting search firms in Atlanta last week.
C-K's rebranding and promotion assignments will encompass print, broadcast and outdoor work, exclusive of newspaper inserts.
Over the years, Cook had helped guide the crosstown supermarket chain's growth from $1 billion to more than $14 billion.
Nonetheless, the shop, which was caught off guard when the account was put into review, was unable to hold on at a time when new management, struggling to stem a tide of red ink and layoffs, "wanted someone new," sources said.
Winn-Dixie has struggled over the past years at the hands of competitors like Publix that have expanded their Southeast presence.
Last spring, the chain confirmed it was closing 114 stores and eliminating 11,000 jobs.