Splenda Hires JWT Canada as Creative AOR for North America

BBDO Previously Led Account Since 2007

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The Splenda product family.
The Splenda product family. Credit: Courtesy of Splenda
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Sweetner brand Splenda has hired J. Walter Thompson Canada as its creative and strategy agency of record for North America following a competitive review.

The agency, which will lead the account out of its Toronto office, will begin working on the business June 1. BBDO previously served as Splenda's North American AOR, winning the then $35 million account in the summer of 2007.

Representatives from BBDO declined to comment about the agency switch.

Kim Holdsworth, global VP-marketing at Splenda, said JWT stood out in the review because of its approach to brand strategy in which it isn't afraid to "challenge brands to push themselves." Ms. Holdsworth, who has worked with JWT in the past, added that Splenda's team had "an immediate connection" with the shop's staffers and was glad the creative stood up to that feeling. The review was handled internally.

JWT's first project is to launch a new product for Splenda which is expected to be released in the U.S. in the fourth quarter, followed by Canada, said Ms. Holdsworth, who would not give specifics.

This is the first significant win for JWT since the agency's former CEO, Gustavo Martinez, left the shop in March "by mutual agreement" after Chief Communications Officer Erin Johnson filed an ongoing lawsuit claiming he had made multiple "racist and sexist slurs." Tamara Ingram, most recently chief client team officer at WPP, took the helm at JWT a week after the lawsuit was filed.

Ms. Holdsworth said Splenda's team had "no concerns" regarding the lawsuit or the Mr. Martinez issue when choosing JWT as its new agency partner.

One of Splenda's goals with the new product launch is to start a "fresh look and conversation" about the brand, said Ms. Holdsworth. She said the company wants to get the message out that Splenda products are great for battling weight and diabetes.

Ryan Spelliscy, JWT Toronto's chief creative officer, said via email that the agency's short-term goal on the account is to "put sugar out of business."

"I admit that sounds like a rather large ambition. But, the truth is, people today, perhaps more than ever, are looking for an alternative to sugar," he said.

The contract with JWT is for one year "by definition, but not by intent," said Ms. Holdsworth. She declined to disclose any budget information.

In addition to JWT, Splenda works with J3 on media, Publicis Health Media and BSTRO on digital and LaForce & Stevens on PR.

Last summer, Splenda got a new owner, when Heartland Food Products Group bought the brand from a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Some other brands within the Heartland portfolio include Skinnygirl sweeteners and water enhancers, Sunkist Liquid Drink Mixes and Icee Zero.