Eisner wins Lenox account worth millions

Baltimore ad agency to start print ads for maker of fine china

October 02, 2002|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Eisner Communications said yesterday that it has won the multimillion-dollar Lenox account and is launching print ads that will attempt to broaden the fine-china company's appeal.

"We're trying to win a number of first-class brands," said Abe Novick, senior vice president of strategic business development for Baltimore-based Eisner. "It's a classic American brand. It's an icon."

The account is a significant win for a shop of Eisner's size, said Janet Wagner, associate chair of marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

"Lenox is a status name," she said. "That has got to be a feather in Eisner's cap."

Lenox's strong brand image makes its advertising agency's job easier and more challenging, Wagner said.

"You're not in the position of having to build a brand," she said. "The challenge is how you go about extending the brand to other markets.

"Whenever you extend a brand, you run the risk of weakening the image. If the creative people get too much power, what may happen is that the brand image isn't translated correctly to the consumer."

It was unclear how many jobs the account might bring to the agency.

"As we are working with Lenox to plan for 2003, we'll be assessing all of our staffing needs in the upcoming months," said Steve Eisner, president and chief executive officer at Eisner.

Although the account is relatively modest in the world of national advertisers, the Lenox brand is one that people recognize, said John A. McCarty, an assistant professor in the school of business at the College of New Jersey.

"Sometimes good work on an account like this brings about other work," he said.

Eisner, which beat out four New York agencies for the new business, will retain Lenox's tagline: "Gifts that celebrate life." Eisner replaces the DePlano Group of New York as Lenox's creative agency of record.

"They were the most talented agency," said Peter Cobuzzi, vice president of brand management at Lenox. "They came up with the best concept."

Lenox, which does its own media buying, spent an estimated $37 million on advertising last year, according to CMR Multimedia, which tracks advertising spending.

Appearing in such magazines as Home, House Beautiful, Food & Wine, House & Garden, Metropolitan Home, Oprah, Gourmet and Modern Bride, the initial campaign, which starts this week, is valued at several million dollars and will be part of a broader campaign that will appear at retail locations, on the Internet and could include television.

One of Lenox's goals is to get a bigger piece of the estimated $55 billion gift market, a broader category than the $19 billion bridal gift market, in which it is firmly entrenched, said Stephen M. Etzine, executive creative director at Eisner.

"You're looking to grow and consolidate the image without diluting the brand image," Etzine said. "That's challenging because the gift market is more amorphous. When we approached the brand, we had to be reverential to what already existed."

It presents an unusual situation from a creative point of view, Etzine said.

"I think the first thing you have to overcome is ego," he said. "You've got to apply your creativity judiciously and then follow the rules. To give a brand a sense of permanency, you need consistency. People are quick to notice a change in tone and manner and voice of the advertising."

Owned by Brown-Forman Corp., which had sales of $2.2 billion last year, Lawrenceville, N.J.-based Lenox makes china, crystal, metal flatware and other gift items.

Eisner reported billings of $248 million at the end of last year and has a staff of 150.

The agency also has offices in Washington. The agency's clients include US Airways, the Maryland State Lottery, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Nature Conservancy and D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp.

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