Suntory Names Fricks/Firestone

Atlantans Gain Agency of Record Status for Bottled Water Group
By T.W. Siebert
ATLANTA-Suntory Water Group of Marietta, Ga., has appointed Fricks/Firestone here agency of record, after an informal review limited to local shops.
“We deliberately picked someone nearby,” said Steve Bayliss, vice president of marketing for the bottled water company. “We really felt if we were going to be hiring [an] advertising partner, they would have to be near so we could work closely together.”
Bayliss declined to identify the other contenders Suntory contacted. The account had been in-house, with the client assigning project work.
“[Suntory] asked us to look at one of their problems, and after we solved that for them, I guess they were comfortable to bring us on board,” said agency creative director Elliot Firestone.
“We wanted a partner that’s big enough that they’re financially responsible, so they can put more than one creative team on a job and buy media effectively,” said Bayliss, “but not too big that we couldn’t have ongoing conversations with the principal players.”
Bayliss said the advertising budget for the remainder of 1999 was “reasonably modest,” but that next year would see a major increase “to the $10 million region.” Competitive Media Reporting listed the client’s 1998 ad spending at $1 million.
Suntory, which owns several bottled water companies in the U.S., has grown primarily through acquisitions and consolidations. Bayliss said the latter approach will continue until Suntory is down to core brands in five distinct regions: Crystal Springs in the Southeast; Hinkley Springs in the Midwest; Kentwood Springs in the Louisiana market; Sierra Springs, covering Texas up through the Rockies; and Belmont Springs in the Northeast.
Principal John Fricks said his agency has already finished its first creative print assignments, which will break in newspapers in four markets this month. A radio campaign is planned for summer.
“The core truths of our Springs brands are universal,” Bayliss said, “and the positioning strategies for those [labels] are identical. One campaign will suit them all.” ƒ