Y&R Finds Itself Behind 8-Ball On 7Up

As it does every year in the spring, Cadbury Schweppes is developing the next 7Up ad campaign. This time, however, the longtime incumbent, WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam in New York, has company from at least two other agencies.

Sources said the client has invited a pair of MDC Partners shops, Cliff Freeman and Partners in New York and Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, to pitch creative ideas for the new effort, along with Y&R. The reach beyond the roster shop comes amid declining sales for the 7Up brand and changes in marketing management. The lemon-lime soda was backed by about $25 million in major media spending last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Y&R, which also handles the Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper accounts, which are not under discussion, is said to be focusing on the task at hand, having been given reassurances from client executives. The agency, which has handled 7Up since the mid-1990s and the other brands since 1970, referred calls to the client, which is based Plano, Texas.

“We’re always looking at all options,” a client representative said, before adding, “If anybody is calling this an agency review, that’s not the label they should be using.” The rep declined further comment on what he deemed an “internal matter.”

Cliff Freeman brings category experience to the contest. The agency, whose previous cola work includes Coca-Cola Classic, Fanta and Cherry Coke, declined comment. Executives at CP+B did not return calls. Sources expect the three shops to meet with client executives in the coming weeks about the assignment. One source described the meetings as “meet and greets.”

Last month, Cadbury installed former Yum! Restaurants International chief marketing officer Randy Gier as evp of marketing for its Americas Beverages division, absorbing the duties of John Clarke, who had been chief advertising officer for the company’s Dr Pepper/ Seven Up unit. Gier, 43, oversees about a dozen brands, including 7Up, Dr Pepper, Snapple and Hawaiian Punch.

Gier and Y&R worldwide creative director Michael Patti know each other from Patti’s years at BBDO, which handles advertising for Yum!’s Pizza Hut restaurants.

Sales of 7Up fell 28 percent last year to about 126 million cases, according to Beverage Digest/Maxwell. At the end of 2003, 7Up ranked 10th among soft drinks with a market share of 1.2 percent, down from 1.7 percent share and a rank of 8th in 2002.

The decline dates back at least to 1999, when the brand sold 205 million cases and had a market share of 2.1 percent, per Beverage Digest. At the same time, major media spending on the brand has declined from a high of about $45 million in 1999 to about $35 million in 2002 and less than $30 million last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The campaign that Cadbury seeks would be presented to bottlers in late summer and break in 2005, per the brand’s usual timetable.

This year’s effort, which Y&R has already produced, continues the “Make 7Up yours” theme, which the agency launched in 1999. The latest commercial, a slapstick spot titled “Slam Dunk,” shows the brand’s well-meaning but misguided spokesman tantalizing passersby with a prize of $1 million if they can slam a basketball through a hoop mounted on the back of his truck. Unwittingly, he moves the truck just as the contestants are attempting to dunk, causing them to fall.

The campaign, spots from which ran on the Super Bowl in 2000 and again this year, has been credited with giving the brand attitude and better awareness, even if sales have lagged.

The “Up yours” line caused a minor stir in 2000, when ABC blocked an early execution from appearing on the Super Bowl. In that spot, the 7Up guy is wearing a T-shirt that says “Make 7” on the front and “Up yours” on the back, which appears to insult an Asian man on a cell phone who passes by. The agency substituted a different execution, which was approved.

Gier’s résumé spans the food and restaurant businesses. While at Yum!, he also oversaw KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and A&W restaurants. Before that, he was CMO for Pizza Hut and KFC in the U.S. Earlier in his career, Gier was vp of brand marketing at Frito-Lay, general manager of PepsiCo supermarket foods and a brand manager at Pepsi.

Clarke, who retired from his post, remains a consultant to Cadbury, said sources.