Allendale Pharmaceuticals, manufacturer of the Today Sponge, has chosen Williams Whittle to relaunch the contraceptive.
Once a popular over-the-counter birth control device, the sponge went out of production in 1994 because of health concerns involving its manufacture.
A $3 million campaign will begin in women's magazines this winter. An online component is also planned.
The Alexandria, Va., agency won the account over larger rivals in New York and Philadelphia, said Allendale president Gene Detroyer.
"Williams Whittle is a smaller agency, so I know we won't get lost," said Detroyer. "Also, marketing director Martha Pickle worked on the account in the old days. She bugged me enough to listen to a pitch. I was favorably impressed."
The client, based in Allendale N.J., ac-quired the brand name, licensing and manufacturing equipment for the Today Sponge from American Home Products in 1998.
Since 1994, only one other contraceptive sponge has been introduced, a result, said Detroyer, of costly clinical trials and consumer demand that tops out at only about $30 million annually.
The contraceptive was withdrawn from the market when Whitehall-Robbins Healthcare, a unit of AHP, voluntarily stopped production after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the manufacturing site's water purification system was contaminated with microorganisms.
No health risk was ever associated with the device, but Whitehall-Robbins, in the face of increased regulatory scrutiny, shelved the product.
The contraceptive has achieved something of a cult status due to an oft-rerun Seinfeld episode in which Elaine, a sponge-hoarder, scrutinizes men for their "spongeworthiness."
"We can't be conservative," said agency president Rob Whittle. "Now, we've got to keep the product spongeworthy."