J&J was ranked as the ninth-biggest spender in 2006 in Hispanic media, with a total of $79 million, up 2.2% from the previous year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In the review, J&J favored Hispanic agencies with strong creative reputations, mostly independent shops and Omnicom Group agencies.
Agency execs familiar with the review said they expected to hear before the end of December that J&J had chosen two or three shops, and that specific brand assignments will only be made after the holidays. The winners are believed to have been given the news already.
In a three-round pitch over the last few months, J&J pared down an initial field of some 20 agencies to about half a dozen finalists. They included three Miami-based agencies -- La Comunidad, Zubi Advertising and Omnicom-backed Alma DDB -- along with Omnicom's Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas; Vidal Partnership, New York; and Mosaica, a division of WPP Group's Hispanic agency Bravo. Mosaica is pitching due to a conflict with Bravo client Wyeth.
Although the pitch was a centralized corporate effort to choose new Hispanic shops for J&J, the different operating companies are fairly decentralized. They pulled together for a corporate Hispanic effort two years ago when 15 brands from seven operating companies joined forces in a bilingual health tour called VidaNuestra (OurLife).
Specific assignments for the winners -- believed to be Vidal and La Comunidad -- are likely to depend on issues such as the stage of development that different brands are at in the Hispanic market, and perhaps be made by product groups.
Previously, J&J's business was divided among Casanova Pendrill, Costa Mesa, Calif., part of Interpublic Group of Cos.; Conill, Los Angeles and New York, Saatchi & Saatchi's Hispanic agency and part of Publicis Groupe; and independent La Agencia de Orci, Los Angeles.
Agencies involved in the review declined to comment or referred calls to J&J.
A J&J spokesman said "No decisions have been reached." He added: "We want to ensure that in all areas of marketing that we're working with the best and the brightest."
Media was not part of the Hispanic review. J&J concluded a major global media review in July 2007. In North America, the company's media spending was largely split between Universal McCann for buying and Naked Communications for planning.
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Contributing: Jack Neff