Smirnoff Picks Profero to Handle Global Digital Business

Vodka Category Sees Agency Changes, New Campaigns

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Diageo has named Profero its lead global digital agency for its Smirnoff brand following a review, according to industry executives.

San Francisco-based AKQA was the incumbent shop handling global digital duties for the vodka brand. The pitch is understood to have included a handful of large and small digital agencies, with indie shop Profero emerging the winner when the pitch wrapped this week.

Profero's assignment isn't expected to include U.S. digital duties, which were recently picked up by Dentsu-owned 360i after a separate pitch. The U.S. incumbent was Interpublic Group of Cos.' MRM. Agencies either declined to comment or could not be immediately reached. Diageo did not comment.

Diageo's Smirnoff is the leading U.S vodka brand with a roughly 21% dollar market share, well ahead of Absolut, which has a 9% share, according to SymphonyIRI sales data for the year ended Jan. 23. Data does not include liquor stores or Walmart.

Smirnoff sales increased by 2.63% to $232 million, compared with a 5.23% jump by the entire category. Diegeo devoted $28.9 million in measured media to the brand in the U.S. in 2010, including nearly $1.3 million on internet advertising, compared with $31.2 million and $733,600, respectively, in 2009, according to Kantar Media.

Overall, London-based Diageo spends just more than $300 million in measured media globally, according to the Ad Age Datacenter's list of the top 100 global marketers.

The vodka's U.S. marketing efforts include the "I Choose Smirnoff" campaign in which fans are encouraged to upload photos for the chance to be featured on the brand's Facebook site or in other national advertising.

The vodka category as a whole is heating up with players rejiggering agency rosters and launching new efforts.

Stoli, which is owned by SPI Group, tapped 40-person New York independent digital boutique Rokkan for digital strategy and execution in the U.S. and global markets. LBi, the London digital shop with fledgling U.S. outposts, previously held the account. Meanwhile, Stoli, which last month split with Ogilvy, is in the midst of a creative agency review.

The latest Absolut work from its lead agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, features outdoor takeovers of city bus shelters that showcase celebrities such as Kate Beckinsale and Ali Larter.

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Contributing: Kunur Patel

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