Pork Producer Taps Suissa Miller

Farmer John, the 71-year-old pork producer that makes Dodger Dogs and a slew of other products, has dismissed its agency of four years, DavisElen, and handed the account to Suissa Miller without a review.

“The brand is growing, but it has not gotten to the level it needs to be,” said svp of marketing Larry Swartford, who joined Farmer John’s six months ago after working as a consultant. He said the tag developed by DavisElen, “Nothing makes a meal like Farmer John,” will be dropped because “it starts with a negative.”

The client spent less than $1 million on ads in 2001, mostly outdoor and radio, and was on the same pace this year as of July, per CMR. But Suissa Miller, an Interpublic Group shop in Los Angeles, will handle more than DavisElen did, picking up jobs including promotions and trade programs that had been parceled out to other shops, sources said.

Swartford said future marketing will focus on five key areas. In addition to hot dogs, including the extra-long Dodger Dogs sold at Dodger Stadium for three decades, the product push will include bacon, pre-sliced lunch meats, smoked sausages and breakfast sausages.

The Vernon, Calif., company has an advantage over national brands like Oscar Meyer, Swartford said, because its products are distributed only in the West and are fresher.

Swatford said he shifted the account because of Suissa Miller’s experience in packaged goods and the strategic direction mapped out by agency president Bruce Miller at an informal meeting last month. That meeting had been arranged by a Farmer John marketing executive who has since left the company. Swartford said he kept the appointment but had no plans at the time to make an agency change.

Miller said the shop’s experience on products such as Heinz condiments and Dole salads gives it an edge with processed-goods clients. “This our first foray into processed meat,” said Miller. “But I guess they liked our creative work and our strategy.”

He added that landing business outside of formal reviews is in keeping with Suissa Miller’s history, and that the shop is sometimes referred to as “the stealth agency.”

DavisElen president Bob Elen attributed the loss to the management shift at the client. “We helped them become a pork marketer, not just a pork producer,” he said. “But I guess it’s the old story of the new guy [needing] his own team.”