Peanut Board Goes Into Review

The National Peanut Board has put its marketing business into review.

The group’s decision signals the loss of yet another Ogilvy & Mather account—the third since WPP merged the Atlanta agency into J. Walter Thompson here last spring.

Sources said the defection of former Ogilvy executive creative director Steve Saari and account manager Bob Coyle—the pair who supervised the Peanut Board business—last week was tied to the upcoming review.

The two, according to Saari, are in the process of setting up their own marketing venture.

“We have a plan, a vision,” Saari said. “Nothing traditional … something flat and nimble.”

Saari declined comment on the Peanut Board account. NPB executive director Marie Rizzo did not return calls at press time.

“The Peanut Board budget has shrunk,” said one JWT executive familiar with the business. “When we put in a bidand told them what we thought they should do next, their funding wasn’t anywhere close.”

The Atlanta-based NPB represents farmers in the Deep South, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. As the board’s funding is set up, 1 percent of the$1 billion U.S. annual peanut harvest is earmarked to underwrite research and marketing initiatives.

When the NPB launched its original review in May 2000, billings were projected at $10 million over 18 months.

Instead, spending for Ogilvy’s first print and cable television effort that broke last spring was about $4 million.

“Now, it’s down to $1 million,” said a source at JWT. “If Steve and Bob took or get that business, that’s fine. We can’t afford to handle it.”

The NPB follows former Ogilvy accounts Flowers Bakeries in Thomasville, Ga. (since awarded to Match in Atlanta) and Children’s Health Care of Atlanta into review. JWT CEO Jeff White denied rumors that Mrs. Smith’s pies, another Ogilvy client, was in play.