C3, developer of the proprietary diamond synthetic moissanite, has parted ways with DDB Needham Dallas and narrowed the field of replacements from seven to three undisclosed finalists.
"DDB did some very good work. It was more an issue of proximity . . . than any reflection on their quality," said Richard French, president of Richard French and Associates, the Raleigh, N.C., public relations firm that is spearheading the search.
French said the initial annual budget of the Research Triangle Park, N.C., firm would be about $1 million, then perhaps expand to $5-7 million in the second year.
"We're first looking for an agency that will implement research [and] branding," French said. "After going through that process, [C3 and the agency] will jointly determine the spending needed to build equity. It will be a collaborative process."
French said consumer print advertising will appear nationally. Ads will primarily target working women who buy jewelry.
Moissanite retails for more than costume jewelry but considerably less than the real thing. A $1,750 bracelet of the faux gems, for example, would cost about six times that amount if made of diamonds, French said.
A representative at one shop approached by C3, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the company seemed unsure about "whether [it wanted] to handle [the product] like it was DeBeers or the Home Shopping Network."
A Jan. 12, 1998, Adweek article about the C3 account quoted sources who pegged billings in the $5-10 million range. In reality, the figure was just over $2 million, French said, because consumer demand already exceeded supply.
"That is the case," confirmed Daniel Parker, news editor at Rappaport, a magazine for the diamond trade. "It seems every month they add at least 10 [retail clients] here and abroad."
DDB did not return phone calls by press time. A decision is expected in March.