Kraft Foods, the nation's largest branded food company, announced on Friday (15 December) that it has consolidated its media and creative advertising assignments to improve agency alignment and efficiency. The company has named Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) - with offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto -- as its agency of record for general market media planning and buying for its U.S. and Canadian businesses. In addition, the company is realigning most of its U.S. and Canadian creative advertising agency assignments at Foote, Cone & Belding, Ogilvy & Mather, and J. Walter Thompson.

``These changes will give Kraft a more focused, strategic approach to our U.S. and Canadian advertising by aligning the majority of our creative work with three agencies and all of our media planning and buying with one agency,'' said Lance Friedmann, Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights and Communications. ``We have always enjoyed great relationships with each of our agencies. However, by working with a select group of long-standing partners we will be better able to develop integrated communication plans that take advantage of the exciting new mix of advertising possibilities.''

In September, Kraft had invited SMG along with Mindshare, OMD/Canada and FCB/TN Media to submit proposals for consolidating media planning and buying.

``It was a difficult decision because of the candidates' demonstrated strengths, but in the end SMG offered the best combination of resources to deliver superior integrated media strategies for our U.S. and Canadian businesses,'' said Don Miceli, Vice President of Media Services. ``SMG will support Kraft with dedicated teams in Chicago, New York and Toronto.''

While FCB, JWT and O&M will have most of Kraft's North American creative work, the Leo Burnett Company will continue to create advertising worldwide for the Altoids mints business, and Y&R on a global basis for the company's Toblerone and other chocolate brands.

``We value the many contributions that our agency partners have made to building Kraft's leading brands over the years,'' said Barbara Ford, Vice President of Advertising. ``With these changes, most of our brands will now be aligned at the same agency for our U.S. and Canadian businesses as well as worldwide, allowing us to maximize resources and category expertise. Working with a select group of strategic partners will not only benefit Kraft but our agencies as well through improved efficiency and streamlined processes.''

All of Kraft's agency partners have considerable strength in the Canadian marketplace. ``We are confident that the team in Toronto will not only meet but exceed our expectations,'' noted Kathryn Fitzwilliam, Director of Consumer Communications, Kraft Canada. ``There will also be tremendous opportunities to share learnings and best practices between Canada and the United States and we look forward to these synergies.''

Kraft's agency realignment changes do not include the recently acquired Nabisco brands at this time.

As part of the new creative agency assignments, U.S. and Canadian Kraft pourable dressings will move from LBC to FCB, along with the U.S. Velveeta business. In the U.S., Crystal Light powdered soft drinks and Balance Bar energy bars will be assigned to O&M, from Y&R; and General Foods International Coffees products will move to FCB, from Y&R. In Canada, General Foods International Coffees products and Kool-Aid powdered soft drinks will move from Y&R to O&M; the Jell-O brand will now be at FCB, previously at Y&R; and Post kids cereals will be assigned to O&M, from BBDO.

Kraft Foods, headquartered in Northfield, IL, is the North American food business of Philip Morris Companies Inc., and includes Kraft Canada Inc. with headquarters in Toronto, Canada.

For more information about Kraft in the U.S. and Canada, visit our website at www.kraftfoods.com/corporate.