Split end: Alberto, Avrett part ways on VO5 account

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Alberto-Culver Co. has split with Avrett, Free & Ginsberg, New York, on its V05 business, and is eyeing a move to a new agency.

A likely frontrunner is Euro RSCG Tatham, a move that could raise Alberto-Culver billings at the Chicago shop to $40 million.

In November, the marketer awarded Tatham its $25 million to $30 million personal-care line for products such as Tresemme, along with its specialty brands account for foods including Mrs. Dash salt alternative. Tatham picked up the business after Alberto-Culver's agency, Lois/EJL, Chicago, closed.

M&C Saatchi, London, in May was awarded the $40 million global account for V05 haircare products outside North America. Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, London, was the previous agency.

CONFLICT PROBLEM?

The company spent about $10 million in measured media for V05 in 1999 and about $5 million in the first five months of 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Avrett, which is believed to have resigned the business because of a conflict with an undisclosed potential client, picked up V05 in January 1999 from Partners & Shevack/Wolf, New York.

At the same time, U.S. media buying was consolidated at Carat/ MBS, New York. Lois and Carat had shared the account. Carat will continue to handle media for V05.

It's uncertain if the company will move its $9.4 million U.S. St. Ives haircare and skincare business, which has been at Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, since 1998. Tatham's sibling agency, Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, London, in May landed the brand's estimated $30 million international account.

Alberto-Culver has improved its financial results this year, thanks to acquisitions and higher marketing spending. Last year, it acquired retailer Sally Beauty Supply. This year it bought Pro-Line Corp., a marketer of African-American haircare products, and Davidson Supply Co., another professional products retailer.

BRAND BUILDING PAYS OFF

The company posted a 14.5% increase in fiscal third-quarter sales to $573.1 million and a 15.9% increase in gross profits over the same period in 1999. Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown analyst Andrew Shore earlier this month said ad and promotional spending worldwide had risen 14.6% to $68.3 million in the third quarter and suggested the company's improved profit margin "suggests Alberto's brand-building strategies are beginning to pay off."

Alberto-Culver spent $44.3 million in measured media in the U.S. in 1999, and $26.2 million in the first five months of 2000, according to CMR.

A Tatham win of V05 would be welcomed at the agency, which last year lost $90 million in Procter & Gamble Co. brands, such as Vidal Sassoon, in a consolidation. Tatham had been a P&G shop for 40 years.

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona.

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