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 utilized all its resources, including staffers from its Orlando, Fla., Phoenix and Milwaukee units, to defeat 35-year incumbent Cook Marketing Communications of Jacksonville, Fla.
The Bozell Group in New York lent its firepower to Cook during the pitch, including personal appearances by Bozell chairman and chief executive officer Gene Bartley.
The visits triggered speculation that a buyout of Cook was in the works, pending the successful outcome of the review. Sources close to Bozell suggested 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," said Bartley.
Cook employees, anticipating layoffs in the aftermath of the loss of their agency's mainstay business, were contacting job placement firms in Atlanta last week.
Both C-K's Chicago and Orlando offices will manage the business, said chief executive Peter Krivkovich. Most account services will be based in Florida; Chicago will handle media while creative will be split.
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 Jacksonville-based chain's growth from $1 billion to more than $12 billion in sales. Nonetheless, the shop, which was caught off guard when the account went into review, was unable to retain it at a time when new Winn-Dixie management, struggling with red ink and store closures, "wanted something new," sources said.
Winn-Dixie has been hurt in the the last few years by competitors like Publix, which has expanded its presence in the Southeast.