HEB Puts Media In Play

H.E. Butt Grocery Co. is holding a review for a possible consolidation of media buying duties on its $8-10 million ad account. The 250-unit supermarket chain is eyeing at least six Texas agencies for the business, according to sources.
Media chores are currently split between the company’s in-house ad unit and media incumbents Mann & Mann in San Antonio and Gugel Advertising in Dallas, sources said. Also contending are the client’s three creative agencies, The Richards Group in Dallas, The Atkins Agency and Parker & Wood, plus Anderson Advertising, all in San Antonio. The latter is the only contender not on HEB’s roster.
The review was apparently triggered by Suzanne Allford, group vice president of sales and advertising, who is installing a “new regime” at HEB’s marketing dept, said a source.
In March, Allford handed HEB’s broadcast creative duties to Richards following a review that also included DDB Needham Dallas, McGarrah/Jessee in Austin, and other undisclosed contenders. At the time, Allford praised Richards’ strong “strategic credentials and [the agency’s] fit with our company’s culture.”
Spearheading the media review, however, is ad manager Heather Smyth, who reports to Allford.
HEB has already heard presentations, sources said. A decision date is undisclosed.
The agencies and client all declined comment or could not be reached. HEB, regarded as an innovative retailer, spent about $8 million on ads last year, per Competitive Media Reporting.
A majority of HEB’s stores are in South and Central Texas, where its main rivals are Albertson’s, Kroger and Wal-Mart SuperCenters. HEB posted $6.5 billion in 1997 sales.