Duracell Reviews Agencies After Incumbent Acme Quits

Acme Says It's Returning to Strategic-Consulting Roots

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Procter & Gamble Co. is reviewing its Duracell creative account in North America, which longtime incumbent Acme Idea Co. has resigned despite one of the best runs in decades for what long had been a beleaguered brand.

P&G declined to comment on what agencies are participating in the review or to indicate a time frame. But the move comes after Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi has played a growing creative role for Duracell as digital agency since 2012, creating the "Trust Your Power" digital video campaign featuring inspirational tales from athletes. One ad featuring Seattle Seahawks running back Derrick Coleman earlier this year has racked up 22 million YouTube views and was played on the scoreboard during the NFC Championship Game in Seattle.

P&G spent just under $50 million on measured media for Duracell last year, according to Kantar Media, but a growing part of that has been digital work handled by Saatchi, with internet display accounting for more than $11 million, not counting search and other digital spending not counted by Kantar.

In a statement e-mailed to Advertising Age, Eva Page, partner in Norwalk, Conn.-based Acme Idea Co., said: "While we've been involved in briefing multiple agencies participating the pitch, we were specifically asked and will honor P&G's request not to discuss agency relationships with any of the media."

In a further statement, Acme said it's ending its 13-year relationship with the brand as of the start of P&G's July 1 fiscal year. Acme began work on Duracell under Gillette Co. ownership and continued after P&G's 2005 acquisition of the company.

"Acme has chosen to return to its founding principles of being a strategic and creative consultancy for building, repairing and creating brands -- as opposed to following the traditional agency model of day-to-day account management," the company said in its statement. Acme noted that it had been involved in "numerous brand introductions" and "significant brand turnarounds" that included work for eBay, Godiva, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods and Wellness Pet Food.

The review comes amid a run of strong sales and share gains for Duracell, which had struggled for decades under Gillette and P&G alike. P&G's battery market share was up 5.6 points to 39.5% on sales up 13% for the four weeks ended May 10, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank, continuing a 10-month streak of big gains.

Those gains came largely on a big distribution win -- displacing rival Energizer as exclusive alkaline battery at Sam's Club last year. Energizer recovered some of those losses by moving into Costco alongside Duracell, which had long been the exclusive battery and private-label producer there. Costco sales aren't included in the Nielsen data.

The alkaline battery category -- the core of Duracell's business -- has been in long-term decline as portable-power use shifts to smart phones, tablets and computers powered by batteries other than the types made by P&G and its direct competitors. Despite Duracell's gains, battery sales overall in measured channels were down almost 6% the past 52 weeks, per Nielsen.

Under pressure from investors, particularly after share and sales losses in batteries, Energizer Holdings last month announced plans to split its battery business into a separate company from its personal-care business.

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