After whittling its roster from nine to five shops during the past three years, P&G now says it isn't ruling out expanding it again-to handle Iams and sister brand Eukanuba.
Iams parted with Doner, Southfield, Mich., earlier this year and was immersed in a review set to conclude in October when P&G announced its purchase.
"The review will continue. We will participate. And we're open [to shops not on the P&G roster]," said Bruce Byrnes, president of P&G's Healthcare & Corporate New Ventures global business unit, which will manage the brands.
Iams didn't disclose the contenders, but it's said there were about eight shops on a shortlist, mainly in the Midwest and Southwest. It's also working with consultants on the review, Bob Wolf & Partners/AAR, New York, and Jane Maas, Northampton Beach, N.Y., a practice normally shunned by P&G.
Iams has been spending at the $15 million level, an amount that could balloon under P&G.
With wholesale sales of $800 million globally-nearly $600 million in the U.S.-Iams ranks between P&G brands such as Downy fabric softener and Crest toothpaste. Media spending on those brands topped $30 million and $120 million, respectively, in 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
GOING OUTSIDE P&G'S ROSTER
Choosing an agency outside its roster for Iams would be highly unusual for P&G. The last time it added an outside agency was Lotas Minard Patton McIver, New York, an incumbent on cosmetic and mass-market fragrance brands it acquired in the early 1990s. That relationship ended within five years.
With Iams, though, P&G may not have many choices among current roster shops.
D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, and Grey Advertising, Los Angeles, handle rival Mars' Whiskas and Pedigree brands, respectively. Jordan McGrath Case & Partners/EuroRSCG, New York, handles only North American business for P&G, leaving Leo Burnett Co. and Saatchi & Saatchi as its only global agencies without apparent conflicts.
Iams presents P&G with huge untapped potential for package-goods-style branding, said Jim Ebel, a former Iams marketing executive who now runs brand positioning agency CenterBrain.
"They've had package-goods people come in and out of [Iams]," Mr. Ebel said. "I was one of them. It never really was a place that . . . accepted the whole package-goods model well. Their ad spending was pretty meager in relation to a brand that size."
But an $800 million global business without supermarket or mass-merchandise distribution is "a testament to how good the quality is of those brands," Mr. Ebel added.
Iams' conservative, dog health-oriented culture prevented expansion into new areas that P&G will likely tap, he said. Mr. Byrnes and P&G Chairman-CEO Durk Jager cited opportunities to apply P&G's expertise in pharmaceuticals, haircare, dental care and human nutrition to Iams.
PaineWebber analyst Andrew Shore noted during a conference call that P&G rival Colgate-Palmolive Co. brought similar capabilities to its acquisition of the premium Hill's and Science Diet pet food brands earlier in the decade, but never