McKay to Define Webster

By David Gianatasio

BOSTON–McKay Fried & Partners here is expected this week to finalize an advertising contract with Merriam-Webster, agency officials said.

Adding the account of the Springfield, Mass.-based reference book publisher is significant because it will give the 25-person shop a national showcase account, said creative director Marvin Fried.

‘It’s where we want to be, . . . going after more visible (client) names,’ Fried said.

The agency caught the publisher’s attention some weeks ago through a direct mail solicitation, Fried said. ‘There was no review. They weren’t looking at other agencies.’

There was no agency handling the account, which has been inactive in recent years.

Annual billings on the account were not disclosed.

McKay Fried will craft a national advertising campaign ‘to reposition them in the marketplace to recapture what they’ve lost to competitors’ like Random House and American Heritage, Fried said.

Merriam-Webster’s share of the domestic dictionary market has slipped 10 percent in the past decade, Fried said. Although the company is still the market leader with 40 percent of the pie, it is looking to regain a 50 percent share in the near future, Fried said.

He attributed the drop in market share to the fact that the ‘Webster’ moniker is being used by other publishers, thereby diluting the name value of the 150-year-old brand and confusing consumers.

‘They all have ‘Webster’ dictionaries now because the name’s in the public domain,’ Fried said.

The agency plans to break a print-based campaign in the fall, during the back-to-school season.

School-aged children, college students and parents will most likely be targeted although strategic and media plans are not firmed up yet, Fried said.

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