Kraft picks Starcom for $800 million media account

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Starcom MediaVest Group, Chicago, the media buying and planning arm of Bcom3 Group, was awarded the estimated $800 million consolidated Kraft Foods media buying and planning account, according to executives close to the review. MediaVest already handles national TV buying and adult-targeted categories for Kraft and is aligned with Kraft creative agency Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. Burnett handles Altoids, Cracker Barrel, Good Seasons and Seven Seas salad dressings, and Velveeta.

Starcom referred all calls to the client.

Kraft, owned by Philip Morris Cos., was not available for comment. Other agencies in the pitch included WPP Group's MindShare, New York, which handles Kraft's radio planning and buying; it is linked to sibling Kraft creative shops Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, and J. Walter Thompson USA, New York; and True North Communications' TN Media, New York, which pitched the business alongside sibling ad agency FCB Worldwide, New York. FCB handles creative duties on Jell-O and several other brands.

In September, Kraft dropped two media shops with no alliances to its creative agencies: Young & Rubicam's Media Edge, New York, which does print buying for Kraft, and Grey Global Group's MediaCom, New York, which does almost $300 million in local broadcast buying and kids categories. The decision to consolidate media buying at Kraft is another step in the food behemoth's long-running plan to leverage the scale of its more than 70 brands, four of which--Post, Maxwell House, Kraft and Oscar Mayer--have more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

With the completion last week of Philip Morris' acquisition of Nabisco Group Holdings, that scale grows even greater, now allowing the new $35 billion Kraft Foods to leverage a whole portfolio of top brands including Oreo, Chips Ahoy and LifeSavers. Although Kraft has not yet announced any agency moves related to the Nabisco acquisition, it is more than likely that the acquired brands will be folded into its existing agency roster.

Nabisco brands have been handled by J. Walter Thompson, Chicago, FCB, New York, and North Castle Partners, Stamford, Conn. Nabisco spent $187 million in measured media in 1999 and $188 million from January through August of this year.

Copyright December 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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