Chobani Names Wieden & Kennedy as Creative Agency in a Reversal of Strategy

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Chobani Flip is a line of Greek yogurt paired with ingredients to mix in.
Chobani Flip is a line of Greek yogurt paired with ingredients to mix in. Credit: Chobani

Chobani LLC has hired Wieden & Kennedy as its lead creative agency, a major shift after the Greek yogurt maker walked away from the agency of record model in 2015.

Wieden & Kennedy Portland, which had worked with Chobani rival Yoplait, will take the lead on Chobani's overall brand articulation and product campaigns. Chobani said it is also adding to its own team to work on everything from package design to social media.

The change in strategy comes as Chobani, which broke onto the U.S. Greek yogurt scene in 2007, is poised to become America's No. 2 selling yogurt brand.

Wieden & Kennedy's first Chobani work is expected to debut in the first quarter of 2017. The agency is already quite familiar with the yogurt category, as it was named the lead agency on General Mills' Yoplait, the current No. 2 U.S. yogurt brand, in March 2015. But it was not that work that caught the eye of Chobani Chief Marketing and Brand Officer Peter McGuinness.

"I've long admired their work, whether it be Nike or the Levi's Go Forth body of work, or the Honda work or the Open Happiness Coke work," Mr. McGuinness said of Wieden & Kennedy. "They're brilliant storytellers and we have a great story to tell."

Just as Wieden & Kennedy began working with Yoplait last year, Chobani switched from having Droga5 as its agency of record to doing much of its marketing in-house and tapping agencies for project work.

"We're fortunate to have great agencies who have partnered with us at different stages of our growth," Chobani said in a statement to Ad Age in March 2015. "Recently, we decided to change our approach and move from an AOR model to more in-house and project-based agency partners."

Now, however, it will return to an agency of record model while handling some more work internally. Chobani said it did not have a formal review process to select a new agency. It had been working on a project basis with Opperman Weiss, including this year's big Olympic campaign, which Mr. McGuinness said he was proud of.

"We're evolving our capability to grow even more. Things are good at Chobani and we're very, very pleased with our topline growth and our share growth and, frankly, our bottom line growth," Mr. McGuinness said.

Chobani is poised to take the No. 2 spot in the U.S. yogurt market from General Mills' Yoplait. Euromonitor International projects that Chobani will move up a notch to No. 2 and General Mills will fall a notch to No. 3 this year, based on results to date. Groupe Danone's Dannon brand is still the market leader in the United States.

As for Yoplait, the bulk of the ads it is currently running were done by Wieden & Kennedy, with others coming from General Mills' internal BellShop. Earlier this month, General Mills would not confirm the status of its relationship with Wieden & Kennedy given its ongoing creative agency review. Yoplait was one of that company's weaker U.S. brands in the latest quarter.

Drink Chobani is Chobani's line of drinkable yogurt, introduced in 2016.
Drink Chobani is Chobani's line of drinkable yogurt, introduced in 2016. Credit: Chobani

This year Chobani branched out beyond its main Greek yogurt products with the introduction of dips and drinkable yogurt. Next year, it plans to continue to grow its Flip line of yogurt with items to mix in, and plans to add seven more flavors of Drink Chobani to the four that rolled out this year. The brand's momentum is a stark contrast to just three years ago, when it had a recall related to mold and concerns about the conditions of its Idaho production facility.

New hires

Chobani announced two additional hires as it continues to ramp up its own creative capabilities. Lisa Gralnek joined as VP of emerging platforms, reporting to Mr. McGuinness. She was most recently head of marketing at online print and design company Moo.

Kwame Taylor-Hayford is set to join Chobani in October as managing director to lead creative technology and integrated production, reporting to Chief Creative Officer Leland Maschmeyer. Mr. Taylor-Hayford was most recently a partner at Sid Lee, and was previously with Anomaly and Saatchi & Saatchi. Mr. Maschmeyer is relatively new to Chobani, having joined this summer.

"We are dramatically increasing our internal design and creative capabilities," said Mr. McGuinness, who joined Chobani in 2013.

Chobani is recruiting graphic and industrial designers for packaging and its cafes, as well as writers, photographers, videographers and others, he said. The enlarged team is not its own agency within Chobani, but instead will handle work on a number of areas, from packaging and social media to cafe and website design.

"It's time to bolster the marketing and advertising department and it's time to lean in in a bigger, more structured way with our external partners to help achieve our goals and objectives," said Mr. McGuinness.

Chobani spent $29.9 million on U.S. measured media in 2015, according to Kantar Media. Chobani hired Horizon as its media agency last month.

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