Eckerd Puts Account Into Play

Drugstore chain Eckerd Corp. has sent proposal requests to several agencies for its estimated $30-40 million account, sources said.

Eckerd, a Largo, Fla.,-based subsidiary of J.C. Penney, mailed questionnaires to five agencies, an employee who works in the chain’s marketing department confirmed. Ja&g advertising in Cincinnati holds the account.

Ja&g executives could not be reached, and it was not known if they were invited to defend the account. Eckerd vice president of marketing Jeffrey Thompson did not return calls.

Ja&g, formerly Backley & Gingrich Advertising, won Eckerd’s business in December 2000 without a review. The account was previously with Doner in Southfield, Mich.

At that time, the agency’s co-president, Sam Gingrich, said that Eckerd would become the shop’s largest client, doubling billings to an estimated $50 million.

The win was credited to the shop’s long-standing relationship with “key decision makers” at the retailer. Eckerd CEO Wayne Harris, who came to the chain several months before ja&g won the account, previously held various management positions at Kroger Co.—ja&g’s cornerstone client.

The agency opened an office in St. Petersburg, Fla., near Eckerd’s headquarters in January 2001.

The shop has 50 employees, eight of whom work in the Florida office, according to an agency representative. Gingrich and agency co-president Steve Jagers areformer Kroger advertising executives.

Eckerd operates about 2,650 stores in 20 states, mostly in the Northeast, Southeast and Southwest. Eckerd’s competitors include CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid Drugstores and Walgreens Stores, according to Hoover’s Online.

J.C. Penney executives said earlier this year they have been reviewing whether or not to sell the drugstore chain sometime in the next few years [Brandweek, March 29].