Carrie Rengers

Cargill moving all fresh beef branding business to Sullivan Higdon & Sink

Cargill decided to choose one advertising agency to handle its fresh beef brands, which means Sullivan Higdon & Sink soon will have all of that business and Associated Integrated Marketing will have none of it.

“It’s disappointing news, but change and evolution, that’s part of the advertising and marketing business,” says Shawn Steward, Associated’s vice president for client service and public relations. “It always will be.”

One person was laid off late last year as a result of the lost account, and Steward says four other people who worked on the account chose to leave. The account is transitioning now and should be finalized over the next month or so.

“Associated has done a great job supporting our fresh beef brands,” says Mike Martin, Cargill’s director of communications. “Decisions like this one are never easy because of the long-standing working relationship between our two organizations. Nevertheless, aligning all of our fresh, branded, beef programs with a single agency is the right thing to do for the … business.”

Martin won’t give a dollar amount for the business, but he says it’s “significant.”

“The greatest future growth potential for meat in general is in branded products, so we consider it to be strategically a pretty important part of our beef business.”

Steward says Associated will still “be working with a number of other Cargill business units. They’ve been a great partner with us over the years.”

The agency lost Cargill’s Sterling Silver, Excel and Genuine Texas Beef accounts.

“It’s not insignificant,” Steward says, “but again, it’s not all of our business with Cargill.”

Brock Campbell, an SHS vice president who is the lead on the Cargill account, says it’s “been a very sizable account for us.” He calls it “definitely a top-five account here in Wichita.”

SHS also handles Cargill’s Ranchers Registry, Angus Pride and Blackwell Angus accounts.

For any company that has a family of brands, Campbell says, “It’s really important that you look at those together.”

Martin says both agencies have done good work for Cargill. He says there are a number of factors that caused the company to select SHS for all its fresh beef brands, including what he calls “size and resourcing.”

“We’re looking to move the branded beef business to the next level in terms of scale and growth and importance.”

Steward says Associated has 25 other active accounts.

“We’ve had quite a bit of success recently with bringing on new clients and projects,” he says. “We have a plan in place … and a team of great people here.”

Associated has 18 employees. That’s down from a high of about 45 in the years since the agency moved to Old Town, which was 2004.

“We don’t have any current plans to change locations,” Steward says. However, he says, “We’ve looked at ways to streamline our costs. Obviously, rent is one of those elements in addition to other budget line items that we’ve been able to find some cost savings in.”

Steward says the agency is “adapting as needed.”

“We’ve rebounded from situations like this in the past, and we intend to do so again,” he says.

“We’re approaching it positively. We’re going to adapt and stay focused to our plan and move forward. … I think we’re going to be fine.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.