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On the shelf: under Tom Carey, BBDO is successfully taking its quality creative into the very different world of packaged-goods accounts By Noreen O’Lear

BDO occupies that most enviable of positions among Madison

But ads for image-conscious clients like Pepsi-Cola, General Electric and Apple Computer–which are more likely to flaunt a moondancing Michael Jackson than a pirouetting housewife–haven’t always drawn the conservative packaged-goods accounts that are the lifeblood of major agencies.
That situation appears to be changing, however. A month ago, BBDO walked away with $50 million worth of billings for Campbell Soup’s flagship and Healthy Request brands. The win, which came at the expense of Backer Spielvogel Bates, is the latest packaged-goods account to make its way to the agency over the last two years.
“No agency can call itself truly great if they do only one kind of advertising,” says BBDO/New York chairman/ceo Phil Dusenberry. “You need a wide and diverse portfolio that includes everything from soft drinks to potato chips to soaps.” It’s not hard to see the appeal of packaged goods for a shop like BBDO. The accounts often pay better than other clients, sometimes even with 15% commissions. They also feature more stable clients committed to advertising-driven strategies. And, the accounts are key relationship builders with multinational marketers.
Realizing his agency needed more presence in this area, Dusenberry brought in Tom Carey in 1990 as president of BBDO/New York. Carey, who spent all of his 23 years at DMB&B working on Procter & Gamble accounts, revived BBDO’s flagging new business efforts, which had slumped after a late-’80s surge. “Tom Carey brought the kind of experiential understanding we didn’t have,” says Allen Rosenshine, chairman/ceo of BBDO Worldwide.
During Carey’s tenure, BBDO has scored several pieces of packaged goods, including more than $100 million of Frito-Lay business for Doritos, Ruffles, Lay’s and Sunchips, $46 million of advertising for Campbell’s brands like Le Menu and Great Starts and the $30-million Tambrands account.
Carey also brings a strong appreciation for the creative required to make packaged-goods products stand apart in a crowded market and knows how to deliver it. “People look at our reel and are sometimes so impressed with the work for Pepsi and G.E., they wonder if we have the resources to get out the same kind of work within their budgets,” says Carey.
Dusenberry contends that budget discrepancy is a key argument in favor of a strong creative approach. “Packaged-goods budgets are not nearly that of big-image clients, who may spend 10 or 12 times more,” he says. “So the work has to be break-through. And the creative problem is very much the same. You’re trying to build an image for a brand.”
Like Dusenberry, many at BBDO see little distinction between the two categories. (“Is Pepsi a packaged good?” asks Rosenshine.) But they agree that where the difference seems to be most apparent is in the process of developing advertising.
“In traditional packaged-goods advertising, the strategy drove everything so the executional thrust was always the product benefit,” says Rosenshine. “It’s a longtime mundane kind of creative measured by how well it says what the product does. Strictly left-brain thinking. But we believe advertising is moving toward the right brain. Our approach goes beyond product benefits and includes a psychic component. With Caress, we tell you the soap makes you feel a certain way–and we don’t just mean soft skin. It’s advertising with head and heart.”
And more genuine humor than most ads for supermarket staples. For Lay’s potato chips, BBDO uses a blond-haired baby, Hoover, who drives his parents crazy putting everything into his mouth. That is, until he is offered an incentive to stop–a conventional greasy chip rather than a Ruffles. In another pitch two Eskimos fish on an ice field and one asks the other for a Lay’s. The response: “If I give you one, I’ll have to give everyone else one.” The camera pans around to show no one else around. And then there’s the Lay’s “Bet you can’t eat just one” update with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird. One frame shows Kareem posing the challenge. The next shows Bird with a shaved head.
“It’s a myth that packaged-goods clients’ advertising is of a certain genre. I don’t think there is a client out there not looking for a great creative solution,” says Gary Moss, Campbell’s vp/global advertising. “It’s all about growing business through increasing market share and that’s why you’ll see a BBDO gaining business not traditionally associated with the agency. Outstanding creative will win the day every time.”
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)