The agency, once known as the Sawyer Miller Group, stepped (albeit indirectly) into the national spotlight nine months ago. At that time, one of its partners, Carter Eskew, left to become Vice President Al Gore's senior media adviser for his presidential campaign.
However, because of ads he created to fight anti-tobacco legislation, Mr. Eskew has proven to be a controversial new member of the tough-on-tobacco Gore team.
Now SawyerMiller is immersed in a different sort of political situation, trying to keep one of its most notable clients -- Microsoft Corp.
POLISHING THE BRAND
The agency created a Microsoft print ad campaign that has cycled through the national newsweeklies this year. The continuing campaign's intention is to enhance Microsoft's corporate reputation, which has needed shoring up during a protracted antitrust battle.
Tom Blim, a principal at SawyerMiller, said the agency is renegotiating its contract with Microsoft. "We're in the process of a re-up in the contracts with them."
Meanwhile, the public affairs office of SawyerMiller parent BSMG Worldwide recently won Microsoft's public affairs communications business, handled out of BSMG's Washington office. Billings for both were not disclosed.
The past year's print campaign not only aimed to raise Microsoft's good guy profile, it had the added benefit of promoting some products. One ad reads, "It used to be hard to get my son to concentrate. Now it's hard to get him not to." The line accompanies a picture of a boy on a computer browsing through Microsoft's Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2000.
"We've developed advertising based on . . . corporate image and values really," Mr. Blim said. "Typically our clients are industry associations and companies who are looking to improve the communication of their corporate values, based upon some activity, whether it is legislative or regulatory."
SawyerMiller also created a recent campaign for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. featuring Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France champion and testicular cancer survivor. "This niche agency has really broken into the bigger leagues," said Jack Leslie, chairman of BSMG. "We've got Microsoft now as a new client and Bristol-Myers Squibb."
The Sawyer Miller Group was founded as a political consulting, research and ad agency in 1972. Bozell (then Bozell, Kenyon, Jacobs & Eckhardt) bought the shop in 1993 and renamed it Bozell Sawyer Miller Group, combining consumer and business-to-business public relations functions at Bozell with the public affairs, crisis and corporate side of Sawyer Miller. BSMG left the political business in 1990.
"We learned a lot in politics that could be applied generally to corporations and government institutions in developing their communications strategies," Mr. Leslie said.
In 1995, political media consultant Carter Eskew was recruited by the company, which was then rebranded as Bozell Eskew.