$250 Mil. Safeway Account Goes Into Play

BOSTON Safeway supermarkets has placed its $250 million broadcast account in play, according to Pile and Co. here, the consulting company overseeing the review.

Broadcast creative and media planning and buying, as well as promotional chores, are up for grabs.

Incumbent Dailey & Associates will not defend, per Pile and Co. The West Hollywood, Calif., shop has handled both creative and media for Safeway. Dailey is a unit of Interpublic Group.

The shop’s most recent work for the Pleasanton, Calif., chain was themed “Ingredients for life” and debuted in April 2005, running through year’s end. It was designed to complement Safeway’s overall “lifestyle” reinvention, which also included physical changes at some stores such as wood floors and upgraded fixtures and softer lighting.

“We have had a successful partnership with Dailey over many years,” said Michael Minasi, senior vice president of marketing at Safeway, in a statement. “As Safeway continues to refine and evolve its consumer communications, we are focused and committed to partnering with an agency that will help us achieve our strategies and continue to build our brand.”

A schedule for the review was not immediately available, but Pile and Co. competitions of this scope have typically taken 60-90 days to complete.

Safeway operates 1,772 stores in the United States and Canada and had sales of nearly $38.5 billion in 2005.

“It was a stunning conversation,” said Brian Morris, CEO of Dailey, of the client’s decision to part ways. “We had a good relationship, even back to the Vons days and our ‘Vons is value’ campaign. And in this case, when Safeway bought Vons in 1995, usually they’d throw out the agency of the smaller company. Instead we started doing all the creative and all the media for Safeway.”

Morris said the agency was not offered the chance to defend. The client, led by Minasi, gave “no indication that this was about our creative or media work. They said they wanted to take things to a higher strategic level and that it was time for a new partner,” Morris said.

Morris acknowledged Safeway as the agency’s largest account, but added that it is “not an overwhelming percentage of our business,” and that the shop is “absolutely poised to replace this business.”

Sources said Safeway accounted for roughly 15 percent of Dailey’s 2005 estimated revenue of $85 million.

Safeway executives offered no immediate comment beyond Minasi’s statement.

—with Gregory Solman

This story updates an item posted earlier today with Dailey’s comments.