Russell Stover Chocolates, the largest U.S. manufacturer of boxed chocolates, has picked VML as its agency of record, a strategic shift after working with FleishmanHillard for about a year.
Russell Stover confirmed its relationship with VML began in February after the company considered a number of agencies in a competitive review handled internally. The Kansas City, Mo.-based chocolate maker primarily considered advertising agencies in the Kansas City area.
WPP's VML, which is also based in Kansas City, will handle a variety of work for Russell Stover including plans for a campaign set to launch later this year.
Russell Stover is best known for products such as red heart-shaped boxes of chocolates for Valentine's Day. It is also the brand Tom Hanks' Forrest Gump was eating when he said: "My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get."
The appointment comes after Russell Stover named FleishmanHillard its first communications agency of record in January 2016. At that time, FleishmanHillard said it would work on social media, digital and public relations strategies, and content creation. Russell Stover said it is no longer working with FleishmanHillard, which had handled the account out of its Chicago office.
For VML, the new business follows a busy year in 2016, when it won lead creative roles on Wendy's, PepsiCo's Brisk Tea, New Balance, Electrolux, Frigidaire, Tyson and Miami tourism.
Russell Stover was acquired by Switzerland-based Lindt & Sprüngli Group in 2014 but continues to run its business from Kansas City.
Earlier this month, the parent company said Russell Stover's sales declined slightly in 2016 as changes were made to its product lineup and promotions strategy. Those adjustments "had a negative impact on sales during the financial year, while at the same time laying the long-term foundation for profitable growth in the future."
Lindt & Sprüngli also said Russell Stover's new seasonal products for Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day launched "very successfully" and that the unit has been stepping up online advertising and its presence on social media.
Russell Stover traces its history back to 1923. That's when Clara and Russell Stover started making candy in their Denver home and called their company Mrs. Stover's Bungalow Candies. The chocolate manufacturer changed its name to Russell Stover Candies 20 years later. In 1993, it acquired Whitman's Candies, which got its start with a small shop in Philadelphia in 1842.