Managing Conflicts: TBWA juggles spirits accounts

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For the moment, it's drinks all around for Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day and the two large spirits clients managing to share the shop.

Absolut Spirits Co., part of Sweden's Vin & Sprit, the world's No. 6 spirits company, and Pernod Ricard USA, the domestic arm of Groupe Pernod Ricard, the world's fourth-largest liquor concern, will continue to coexist at TBWA, at least for now.

"There have been discussions, and so far it's not presented a problem," said Absolut President-CEO Carl Horton. "Yes, they're both at TBWA. Yes, they both exist there, but there have been precautions and guidelines."

Pernod Ricard executives said they had no plans to change agencies, with some earlier saying the French-based company was satisfied the agency had erected sufficient firewalls. Absolut will continue at TBWA's New York office. Pernod Ricard will be serviced out of a separate New York office of G1 Worldwide, a joint venture between TBWA Worldwide and Japan's Hakuhodo, according to executives close to the situation.

The specter of conflict first arose last December with the dissolution of Seagram Spirits & Wine Co. following parent Vivendi Universal's decision to focus its portfolio on entertainment. That led to speculation of a review or shuffle because TBWA handled Absolut vodka-which Seagram had marketed in the U.S.- as well as several other Seagram brands that were acquired by Pernod Ricard, including Chivas Regal and Glenlivet.

It was thought TBWA, which turned Absolut and its bottle into an icon after landing the account in 1981, might part with Pernod Ricard, whose highest-profile brands prior to the Seagram deal had been Wild Turkey bourbon and Campari liqueur. Absolut last year received $31 million in measured media, while Pernod Ricard predecessor Austin Nichols & Co. laid out just $6.6 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Pernod's former Seagram brands received about $20 million.

Even though the two liquor marketers compete for the same drinkers, the TBWA/Absolut/Pernod Ricard troika appears to be working because the marketers do not consider each other threats.

Absolut's biggest U.S. property is its vodka, while Pernod Ricard's only U.S. vodka is the considerably lower-brow Wodka Wyborowa. Last year, Polish vodka Wyborowa sold about 10,000 cases in the U.S., compared with Absolut's 4.7 million cases, according to spirits industry publication Impact.

Pernod Ricard's other primary agency is Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi.

In January, Pernod Ricard consolidated its $30 million media planning and buying account at Aegis Group's Carat, New York. Much of Seagram's media work had been at Grey Global Group's MediaCom, which won Diageo's $150 million U.S. beer and spirits business in September (AA, Jan. 7).

contributing: rich thomaselli

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