Originally scheduled to be wrapped up by November, the account review has been put on hold because the company has yet to come up with a viable test ad campaign, according to executives close to the company.
NOT UNTIL 4TH QUARTER
As a result of the hold, no national advertising is expected until at least the fourth quarter. Instead, RJR is throwing national support behind its growing Camel and Doral brands rather than the foundering Winston and Salem.
WestWayne, Tampa, Fla., and Earle Palmer Brown, New York, both non-roster agencies, are the two finalists on Salem.
RJR DISPUTES CRITICS
RJR takes issue with critics who say it has lost its marketing aggressiveness.
"You support brands that show they are responsive," said G. Clifton Pennell, senior VP-marketing for five of the company's brands. "The ones that are responding in a lesser way are Winston and Salem. We are working hard to make progress with them and get them on track; then we will invest in them."
Mr. Pennell is one of three executives who will run the restructured marketing department following Mr. Sorensen's exit (AA, Jan. 27). The others are Senior VPs Lynn Beasley and David Iauco.
"Camel is a growing brand; it's got a 12% share. Better feed money into it than waste it on Winston or Salem," said Gary Black, tobacco industry analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, New York.
For Winston, the company is testing a no-additives, "no bull" campaign in Florida via Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C.
"It's very premature to say we could turn a brand around in only four months," Mr. Pennell said in response to reports that effort had proven unsuccessful.
He wouldn't comment on information from executives close to the company that RJR is planning on reallocating ad dollars slated for Salem to the new Camel Menthol campaign from agency Mezzina Brown, New York. But Mr. Pennell indicated the company wasn't abandoning Salem.
"Camel Menthol and Salem are two different opportunities in the marketplace," he said.
RJR also said it is rejiggering advertising for Eclipse, the low-smoke brand testing in Chattanooga, Tenn., easing up its hard-sell approach that touts the benefits of less secondary smoke.
Early ad executions showed a steaming kettle and discussed how secondhand smoke was reduced. The latest approach-also from Mezzina Brown-has more spritely theme lines, such as "The smoke goes away. Your girlfriend doesn't."
During the past five years, RJR has dropped large agencies for domestic work-such as Y&R Advertising and Foote, Cone & Belding, both New York-to work with smaller, hungrier shops. While veteran agencies Long Haymes and Mezzina Brown remain on the roster, Trone Advertising, Greensboro, N.C., has split with RJR.
Along the way, RJR has gained a reputation as a difficult client known for pitting its agencies against one another on a project-by-project basis. "That's totally unfounded and wrong," said Mr. Pennell. "I think we have shown a committment and strong partnership."
That said, he added: "There is the expectation that we are looking for fresh new creative ideas."