Winn-Dixie Narrows List to 4

Southern grocery chain Winn-Dixie Stores has reduced the competition for its $40 million marketing account to four finalists, including one headquartered in the Midwest, sources said.

According to sources close to the review, the finalists include Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago, which is pitching with its Orlando, Fla., office, Austin Kelley Advertising in Atlanta, Young & Rubicam in Miami, Levenson & Hill in Dallas and Luckie & Co. in Birmingham, Ala.

John Harden, ad planning manager for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based grocery chain, said that a final round of presentations took place last week. Agency sources said pitches were made over the past two weeks.

“We’ll have an answer in about five weeks,” said Harden, who declined to confirm the identities of the final four agencies in the review.

Cook Marketing Communications in Jacksonville, Fla., held the account for 30 years but was eliminated early in what has become a four-month review process. The grocery chain’s Hispanic account, held by Zubi Advertising in Coral Gables, Fla., is not part of the review, according to an agency representative.

According to a letter that accompanied Winn-Dixie’s proposal request, direct response marketing experience would be a primary consideration in determining a winner. Agency sources said presentations were skewed toward strategic suggestions, with some creative work also put forth in an effort to establish rebranding competencies.

The chain handles its daily newspaper promotions in-house, sources said. An agency is needed primarily for direct and image work.

C-K executives declined to comment on the review. The agency’s Phoenix office formerly worked with a grocery chain in that market.

Winn-Dixie spent $42 million in 1999 and was on pace for a similar outlay this year, with $12 million spent through April, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The 1,000-store chain, which has a presence in 22 states, has struggled over the past few years, particularly at the hands of high-end competitors like Publix and Harris Teeter, which began expanding their presence in the Southeast. In April, the chain confirmed it would be closing 114 stores and cutting almost 11,000 jobs.