Bozell’s Interest Helps Cook Gain Winn-Dixie Finals

The field has narrowed to three finalists in the race for Winn-Dixie Stores’ $42 million marketing account.

Incumbent Cook Marketing Communications, with some back-channel assistance from Bozell chairman Gene Bartley, came roaring back to join Chicago’s Cramer-Krasselt and FKQ Advertising, Clearwater, Fla., in the finals of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based supermarket’s review.

According to one Winn-Dixie marketing executive, a final decision is expected in December.

Sources said Jacksonville-based Cook, which has held the account for 30 years, had all but been eliminated in an early round when Bartley, pursuing a possible acquisition strategy for parent True North, arrived from New York to pitch ad planning manager John Harden and other client executives on the marketing and media firepower Bozell could lend to Cook’s efforts.

A source, who attended the meeting, said any acquisition was likely to be contingent upon Cook’s keeping the account. A Bozell representative has declined comment on Bozell or True North’s interest or involvement.

FKQ, a full-service agency with 1998 billings of $42 million, has been a dark horse in the race.

Winn-Dixie spent $42 million in 1999 and is on pace for a similar outlay this year, with $12 million through April 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting

Semifinalists Levenson & Hill, Dallas; Austin Kelley Advertising, Atlanta; Young & Rubicam, Miami; Carat North America, New York; and Empower Media Marketing, Cincinnati, were eliminated.

The 1,000-store chain, which operates in 22 states, has struggled in the past few years, particularly at the hands of high-end competitors like Publix and Harris Teeter. Those two rivals have been expanding their operations in the Southeast.

Last April, Winn-Dixie confirmed it would close more than 100 stores and cut thousands of jobs.

A spokesperson at the supermarket’s Hispanic agency, Zubi Advertising in Coral Gables, Fla., said the Latino portion of the business was not in review.

According to last summer’s rfp, direct response marketing experience will be a primary consideration in determining a winner.