Updated: Pinnacle Confirms Agency Shifts

Pinnacle Foods has confirmed selecting new agencies to handle creative duties on its lines of dry grocery goods and frozen foods, respectively, after a review.
Omnicom Group’s BBDO in New York will handle duties on grocery brands such as Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s, while MDC Partners’ Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners in New York will handle frozen-food brands such as Birds Eye, Hungry-Man, Mrs. Paul’s and Swanson. Revenue on each account is estimated at $1-2 million.
Adweek reported the shifts on July 6. The client confirmed those moves today in a statement, adding, “The two agencies were selected for their ability to connect with consumers of today, drive strategic insights and creative concepts, and importantly, translate them into ownable, competitively advantaged brand communications platforms.”
Major media spending across all Pinnacle brands totaled about $50 million last year and nearly $20 million in the first four months of 2010, per Nielsen.
The other finalists for the dry-goods business were SapientNitro in New York and the incumbent, Omnicom Group’s Merkley + Partners in New York, said sources.
“In the four years we had the business, we got stellar agency evaluations. All the brands we managed grew during our partnership with Pinnacle and we were awarded additional brands, media planning duties and digital projects during our tenure,” Merkley CEO Alex Gellert said.
He added, “Those facts make it difficult to understand Pinnacle’s decision. But we respect their right to manage the brands however they see fit and we wish them continued success.”
Neither BBDO nor SapientNitro was on Pinnacle’s creative roster, but each had worked with Pinnacle CEO Bob Gamgort when he was North American president of Mars. Gamgort replaced Jeffrey Ansell as Pinnacle CEO in July 2009.
Sources identified the other finalists for the frozen-foods account as Havas’ Arnold in New York and the primary incumbent, Interpublic Group’s Draftfcb in New York. Northlich in Cincinnati and Merkley also had handled parts of the business.
The selections came about a month after final presentations. Pinnacle also reviewed media planning and buying duties but the winner of that contest could not be ascertained. Merkley handled most of the media planning duties and buying was split among several shops.
Dick Helstein, a former advertising director at Kraft Foods who is based in Darien, Conn., is said to have managed the process.
This story updates an item posted on July 6 with client confirmation and additional information.