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Wolf Lands Sweetener

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NEW YORK -- Wolf Group has picked up creative duties for Merisant's Equal brand, following a review, the agency and client said.

"We're charged with basically bringing up the Equal brand [to a higher level]," said Ned Russell, chief operating officer of the New York shop, which is owned by Wolf Group Toronto.

The New York shop bested six other agencies to take the estimated $10 million business, sources said. Contenders were incumbent Young & Rubicam in Chicago, Publicis in the Midwest and Noble & Associates, both in Chicago, Arnold in St. Louis, Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis and Northlich in Cincinnati.

In the pitch, agencies were charged with addressing three key elements of the sugar substitute, said Karl Sestak, svp of corporate communications for Chicago-based Merisant: great taste; use on a wide variety of products; and relevance for everyone -- not just those who are on diets or diabetic. Wolf Group's speed in grasping the brand's positioning was a factor in Merisant's decision, he noted.

Y&R worked on Equal for five years. The brand was acquired by Merisant from Monsanto two years ago. "[For] the initial couple years [since Merisant bought Equal], we've been focused on getting set up, opening offices, finding the right people and filling in gaps," said Sestak. "Now [that] that's done, [the review] was the logical next step."

New work is expected to break in the fourth quarter.

The most recent TV spots by Y&R, which broke in May, featured a "blue crew" of people who ran in a pack and sprinkled Equal on different foods.

Mediaedge:cia in Chicago handles media duties; Burson Marsteller, also Chicago, does promotions.