In the middle of a marketing overhaul, Virgin Drinks has moved its national creative assignment to Long Haymes Carr from Ground Zero and ended its relationship with KSL Media.
LHC in Winston-Salem, N.C., prevailed in a review over Avrett, Free & Ginsberg, Mad Dogs & Englishmen and CMG Communications, all New York, said Sheryl Fischer, vice president of marketing for the client in Wilton, Conn. CMG handles the $15-20 million account of sister company Virgin Airways.
Fischer declined to discuss billings, though annual spending is believed to be in the low to mid-seven figures. Competitive Media Reporting cites no 1999 spending after $2 million in 1998, but a significant part of the budget goes to below-radar sponsorships and promotions, a category in which LHC has excelled for its R.J. Reynolds and Nabisco packaged-goods clients.
LHC has been hired to expand the scope of Virgin's marketing to include the soft drink's expanded selection of flavors, Fischer said.
KSL in Los Angeles is no longer handling media buying, Fischer said. At this time, there is no review and no decision about the future of the media account has been made, she added.
Agency chairman and chief executive officer Steve Zades said LHC's initial focus involves planning and research.
"No creative as yet," he said. "The opportunity here is not in soft drinks. It's in going in a new direction . . . What's happening now is new beverage concepts from new age drinks to electrolytes to beverages that haven't even been invented yet."
LHC will also "create synergies" within the Virgin family of companies, Zades said.
Ground Zero, Santa Monica, Calif., helped launch the Virgin Cola flagship in the U.S. in mid-1998 with the tagline, "Say something."
Gaining a market foothold proved more difficult than expected, and the cola's big splash did not make much of a ripple. There have been distribution snafus and tepid consumer response to both the beverage and its ads. Thus far, Virgin has not made significant inroads against Coke or Pepsi. The firm also markets a diet cola, citrus drinks and an energy beverage.