Tabasco Up for Review After 24 Years at TracyLocke

Incumbent Said It Will Defend Account and 'Continue Our Partnership'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After a 24-year relationship with Omnicom Group's TracyLocke, the owner of Tabasco, McIlhenny Co., is inviting agencies to pitch creative ideas for its popular hot-sauce brand.

In a statement, TracyLocke CEO Ron Askew said the agency "has enjoyed a 24-year relationship with McIlhenny Co., helping to build Tabasco brand's Pepper Sauce as the category leader."

"While McIlhenny Co. is following an industry practice in conducting an administrative review of its advertising account, our relationship is strong, and the company continues to support ongoing marketing efforts led by TracyLocke," said Mr. Askew. "We plan to participate in this review and continue our partnership."

Representatives for McIlhenny didn't respond to a request for comment by press time. The pitch is believed to be in the early stages, and it's unclear how many shops are being asked to participate.

McIlhenny Co. manufactures a variety of pepper sauces -- in red, green, garlic, habanero and sweet varieties -- as well as Bloody Mary drink mixes, both for consumer use and for the food-service industry. The privately held company was founded in 1868 and is based in Avery Island, La.

While it's a category leader, marketing spending for the brand is low. According to Kantar Media, McIlhenny devoted only $2.5 million to measured media in 2009, but is on track to double that this year, having spent $2.6 million in the first six months of 2010.

Losing the account after a nearly 25-year relationship is likely to have more of an emotional impact than a financial one for TracyLocke. The agency, which has five main offices in Dallas, Bentonville, Ark., Wilton, Conn., New York and San Francisco, recently picked up the $32 million Buffets account after a review that began in April. That business was previously at Chicago independent Schafer Condon Carter, which did not defend the business.

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