Despite slumping 7UP sales, Cadbury keeps faith in Y&R

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Facing a midlife crisis over its 7UP soft drink, Cadbury Schweppes' Americas Beverages is staying married to its long-term partner rather than dally with a hot new paramour.

After a flirtation with Miami's plucky Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the marketer last week decided to keep creative for 7UP at WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, though this time the account will be led by its San Francisco office rather than the New York team.

`Thrilled'

Y&R is "thrilled to not lose [again] to Crispin," said an executive at the agency who asked to remain nameless. Crispin-which snared Y&R's $335 million Burger King business in January-was just 4 years old when Y&R landed 7UP in 1969.

"Both [shops] presented interesting creative and innovative ideas," a Cadbury spokesman said. "But we thought [Y&R's] was the one that would help us make the biggest impact with 7UP Plus," a new fortified soft drink that Cadbury is banking on as a way to regain its fizz in the soft-drink category.

More was at stake than just 7UP Plus, however: The No. 3 soft drink company last week confirmed that the overall $25 million account was up for grabs.

One executive close to the matter suggested the effort included an Olympic sponsorship, although that could not be confirmed and the Cadbury spokesman declined to comment on details about the winning pitch.

The beverage marketer has had its share of woes lately. Last year, its largest distributor network-Pepsi-Cola distributors-were persuaded to stop pouring 7UP and pick up Pepsi's Sierra Mist.

Since then, 7UP has fallen behind the upstart brand to become the country's 10th top selling soft drink, down from No. 8 one year earlier as it scrambled to find different distributors. Volume share for 7UP fell 27.8% in 2003, while Sierra Mist surged 89.3%, according to Beverage Marketing Corp.

Last year, Cadbury combined its three beverage units under the Americas Beverages banner and began a cost-cutting initiative designed to shift savings to marketing and innovation.

examining portfolio

In March, the company hired Randy Gier as its exec VP for marketing from chief marketing officer at Yum Brands International. Mr. Gier is conducting a comprehensive review across its portfolio.

"We are looking at different ways to continue to drive these well-known consumer brands, including a review of our portfolio, our people, our brand teams and our advertising," the spokesman said. "People don't understand the full breadth of [Americas Beverages] and we're looking for ways to continue to innovate or aggressively promote these household names."

Other agencies said to have been approached by Cadbury were Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston, and New York's Cliff Freeman & Partners. Cliff Freeman, like Crispin-backed by Toronto's MDC Communications, snagged 7UP sibling Snapple in May.

contributing: lisa sanders

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