Campbell's delivers $200 mil to Media Edge

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Campbell Soup Co. is shifting $200 million in media buying and planning to Young & Rubicam's Media Edge, a move that effectively disbands its historic Campbell Media Alliance.

Although client-dedicated media buying units are now commonplace, the concept was virtually pioneered in package goods with the Campbell Media Alliance in 1995.

At the time, the creation of the True North Communications unit was considered a breakthrough because it recognized the media function as not just a means of placing advertising but an integral part of the ad process itself.


Campbell VP-Global Business Development Tim Callahan said the soup marketer is still wedded to that premise, despite the fact it is leaving the TN unit.

"The basic underpinning is still getting a group together to recognize the strategic importance of media," he said. "It's still consolidated under one independent group."

Mr. Callahan noted that four years ago, most agencies hadn't unbundled media departments, and that necessitated Campbell's forming of CMA--to work with a media unit separate from an agency. "Clients were ahead of agencies in recognizing the importance of media and media planning," he said. Today, however, there are other options.

It will now be up to True North, which was informed of Campbell's decision last Friday, to decide whether to fold or refashion the CMA unit. The switch is effective within 90 days.


Another reason for the move is there are no True North agencies now on the Campbell roster. The marketer parted ways with Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, in November, and now works solely with Media Edge sibling Y&R Advertising and Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York. There was no shoot-out with BBDO.

"The decision to go with Y&R was made because it has an independent media unit," said Mr. Callahan. "BBDO does not."

Media Edge has set up dedicated units within the shop for other clients, such as AT&T Edge for client AT&T Corp. But Mr. Callahan said Campbell's arrangement won't be "in that model."

In fact, although Campbell insists there was nothing that needed fixing with CMA, it appears the company now believes it can get better pricing from a media shop that also brings the combined clout of several other clients. Media Edge, which Mr. Callahan said is the No. 2 network TV buyer in the country, clearly fits that bill.


The agency has claimed more than $1 billion in new business within the past year. The streak prompted rivals to accuse the agency of using lowball prices, a charge that angers Beth Gordon, Media Edge's president. "It's insulting to say we're the low-price provider, and I don't think clients make decisions on price," she said.

Campbell didn't comment on pricing or pay arrangements with Media Edge.

Ms. Gordon said the agency would need to add staff to service the Campbell business, but isn't necessarily planning to hire staffers from CMA. She said rather than creating a "Campbell Edge," her shop will have a "large, fully staffed group like we have for Colgate, Clorox or Kraft."

While the means to achieving a "total communications perspective" may change under Campbell's new setup, the goal hasn't changed. "Campbell has always been on the leading edge in media," said Ms. Gordon. "What they were doing wasn't wrong."

Copyright March 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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