Rives Carlberg Is Grocer’s Pick

Rives Carlberg has won the ad account of H-E-B Grocery Co.’s Houston division.

The Houston agency defeated crosstown rivals Bates Southwest and J. Walter Thompson in a review to win the store’s business, sources said.

Annual billings are undisclosed.

The Richards Group in Dallas, which handles advertising for the grocery chain’s outlets across the rest of Texas, did not participate in the review.

“They wanted a local agency, someone who can break the code and explain the Houston market,” said Rives Carlberg president and CEO Chuck Carlberg.

The agency will produce a television, radio, outdoor and in-store campaign for H-E-B’s 90-plus stores in the Houston area. The shop will also handle media planning and placement for broadcast ads which will break later this summer. Print advertising, built, in part, around the chain’s “Low prices everyday” message, will be coordinated with the retailer’s marketing team at its San Antonio headquarters.

Carlberg suggested his shop’s deep roots in the Houston community, an insightful strategic approach, as well as his personal experience as a longtime H-E-B customer helped deliver the business.

The agency also has category experience, having handled branding for AppleTree, a Texas grocery chain with stores in Bryan and College Station.

“The culture is built on friendliness and caring,” Carlberg said. “They represent the opposite of what I call the Wal-Martization of America. In the stores, employees are called ‘partners,’ not clerks. That’s something we intend to build on to get folks to choose H-E-B.”

H-E-B, established nearly a century ago, has about 55,000 employees and is the largest grocery chain in the state. The retailer, whose initials stand for founder Howard E. Butt, operates more than 280 stores in Texas, western Louisiana and northern Mexico. Charles Butt currently runs the company.

The chain, with those deep roots and its history of innovative approaches to retailing, dominates the Texas market.

Houston, however, is the exception to statewide domination. In that arena, H-E-B trails category leaders Kroger and Randall’s (a unit of Safeway) supermarkets.

“H-E-B knows retail,” said Howard Blevins, the agency’s vice president and group management supervisor. “We really know the Houston market, so it’s a perfect fit.”