Unilever taps [email protected] to fortify 2 online brands

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[email protected], the recently renamed interactive arm of J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, announces it has won the online accounts of two Unilever brands Dec. 13: Lipton Brisk iced tea and Lever 2000 deodorant soap.

JWT, New York, President Bob Jeffrey considers the wins clear indicators of the interactive division's viability in a competitive industry. The wins also show, he said, that Unilever--one of JWT's oldest and largest traditional advertising clients--has reconsidered the favor it once saved for independent online shops.


"Unilever has made a big commitment to digital [advertising]," Mr. Jeffrey said. "But when we first got involved with them, there was a skepticism on their part to do anything digital with the agency. That's because a year and a half ago, we didn't have the credibility [they wanted]."

As a matter of fact, in a scathing report late last year, Forrester Research gave JWT Digital, which renamed itself [email protected] in November, a grade of C-.

Since its inception in August 1998, the digital arm has grown from a one-person division started by President Kevin Wassong to 32 employees with billings estimated at $40 million. Clients include Elizabeth Arden, DeBeers, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Qwest Communications International.

"What we've done is demonstrate to them what we can do online for their brands," Mr. Jeffrey said.

[email protected] beat incumbent Agency.com and Think New Ideas, both New York, for Lipton Brisk, a product of the Pepsi-Lipton Tea Partnership, which is a venture between PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola Co. and Unilever's Lipton. With a 2000 Web budget estimated at more than $1 million, [email protected] will develop banners, tweak the existing site (www.liptonbrisk.com) and seek content and advertising partnerships, said Michael Hartman, senior marketing manager for Lipton Brisk.

"For integration and synergy's sake, we wanted to have all media with [JWT]--TV, print, radio and Web," Mr. Hartman said. "And we felt the JWT joint team knew our brand very well."


JWT, New York, has handled traditional ads for Lipton Brisk since 1992; Lipton Brisk's overall ad budget last year was an estimated $15 million to $20 million. Mr. Hartman declined to disclose last year's total online spending, but did say it will increase next year.

"We were getting our toe wet the first time and we feel more comfortable with the medium as a relationship vehicle now," Mr. Hartman said.

Lipton Brisk's Web site will be linked more closely with traditional ads, he said.

[email protected] also won Lever 2000's online account, its first-ever online work. Spending was undisclosed. Other agencies in the review included McCann-Erickson Worldwide's Thunder House, OgilvyOne's Ogilvy Interactive, Think New Ideas and Sterling Group, all New York.

[email protected] will develop the brand's online strategy and banner ads. It also will explore broadband applications and e-commerce opportunities.

JWT, which has had a relationship with Unilever since 1902, has handled Lever 2000's traditional advertising since the late 1980s.

Copyright December 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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