Starkist Hires Suissa Miller For Creative

LOS ANGELES Suissa Miller has picked up creative duties on the Starkist Tuna account after a review of undisclosed shops, the client and the agency confirmed. Plans call for new creative executions to continue using Charlie the Tuna, the venerable ad icon created for the brand by Leo Burnett in 1961, they said.

Although spending was undisclosed, the client spent close to $10 million during the first 10 months of 2002, after spending about $8 million the previous year, according to CMR. Sources said the increased spending was related to the addition of Starkist in a foil pouch to complement the longstanding hockey-puck-sized tuna fish can.

The account had most recently been handled by the Cincinnati agency Northlich, which did not defend the business, sources said. According to the client’s senior brand manager, Pam Koren, the client settled on the Los Angeles agency Suissa Miller because of “its business oriented approach” and its reputation She declined to identify the other shops in the review. A Northlich rep confirmed that the agency had handled the account but declined further comment.

The decision to hire Suissa Miller follows a change in the ownership of Starkist, but Koren said it was “absolutely unrelated” to the deal. She added that the review had commenced “way before” the ownership change. In December, the tuna fish brand was spun off by H.J. Heinz Co. and sold to Del Monte Foods Co. as part of an estimated $2.5 billion deal that also included the pet food, private label, soup and baby food divisions. Koran, who has been the Starkist brand manager for more than two years, also made the move from Heinz to Del Monte. To accommodate the added brands, Del Monte, which is based in San Francisco, has opened an office close to Heinz headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Suissa Miller also handles creative duties for one of the other Heinz divisions effected by the deal, the Pet Snacks Division which markets Pup-Peroni, Snausages and Nawsomes! was also shifted to Del Monte. Koran noted that she was influenced by colleagues at the Pet Snacks division who gave Suissa Miller high marks for its work.

The agency’s president, Bruce Miller, said he was excited by the prospect of using the Charlie the Tuna icon in future Starkist work. “Everyone in advertising should be so lucky,” said Miller. “The use of Charlie has evolved and it is not rooted in what they were doing 35 years ago. We’re thrilled to be working with Charlie.”

Media planning and buying for Starkist, which is handled by Initiative Media’s division Media Partnership Corp., is unaffected by the move, Koran said.