Report: Kraft Switched Agencies on Close to 50% of Its Ad Business

Strategic Shift to Risk-Taking and Speedy Moves Seems to Be Paying Off for Bottom Line

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Kraft Foods -- once known for its conservative, slow-moving nature -- continues to forge a new reputation as a risk-taker, swapping agencies and campaigns with abandon as it seeks to sharpen its advertising in a strategy that first took hold a couple years ago.

Just how aggressive has the food giant been? Wall Street analyst Bernstein Research recently did that math and found that in 2009 and 2010 Kraft had switched ad agency assignments on brands accounting for a whopping 48% of its total U.S. measured media spend.

The shifts led to new assignments for Oscar Mayer, Crystal Light, Jell-O, Lunchables and others. It also meant new products and campaigns meant to push the envelope. And the changes have kept coming this year, with big players like Trident and Triscuit switching shops. Meantime, Kraft continues to roll out new brands, like Mio water flavoring and MilkBite dairy snack, while airing edgier ads, such as Droga5's effort for Athenos, which featured a Greek grandmother who in one spot accuses her granddaughter of dressing like a prostitute.

Of course, change for change's sake is not always a good idea. So there's a larger question: What have the changes meant for the marketer's bottom line?

Bernstein Research, which published its report this week, said results have been a little bit mixed, but mostly good. Miracle Whip, whose latest "We're Not For Everyone" campaign features people who love and hate the brand, has "seen improving sales trends and market share," the report noted, while Athenos "saw a boost to dollar and volume sales growth" after Droga5 was named agency of record late last year. (Although the report noted the tailwind could be coming in part to the general popularity of Greek yogurt.) Still, Mac N' Cheese, which moved from Interpublic Group's DraftFCB to MDC Partners' CP&B in 2010, has seen only "mediocre volume trends in the face of price increases."

So, in sum, "while sales and market share results have been mixed for these brands, recent price increases and the timing of new-product launches makes it a little hard to directly link the qualitative nature of an advertising campaign to its underlying sales impact," the report states. But "on balance, it seems good that Kraft is becoming more flexible and shedding its rather conservative reputation of 10 years ago."

Good that is , for everyone except the agencies on the losing end of new reviews.

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