PR agencies sign on to help push olive oil

MINNEAPOLIS: Expect to hear a lot more about olive oil, thanks to two new account wins.

MINNEAPOLIS: Expect to hear a lot more about olive oil, thanks to two new account wins.

An olive-oil importers' association and a retail chain that specializes in olive oil have each taken on public relations agencies to promote olive-oil consumption in the US.

The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) has hired Minneapolis-based Colle & McVoy for a $250,000 consumer campaign. Meanwhile, Oliviers & Co., the US arm of a French company that operates seven retail locations across the US that feature store-branded vintage olive oils, foods, and accessories, has hired the New York-based Susan Magrino Agency to handle strategic PR for its US operations.

Americans' growing concerns about healthy eating - as well as increasing culinary sophistication - make this a good time to be promoting olive oil, said Stephen Davis, sales and marketing manager at Oliviers.

"There's become some consumer awareness, particularly on the coasts, that there is something to olive oil beyond what's available in the grocery store," Davis said.

He selected the Susan Magrino Agency for the account from a group of four finalists after a 12-week search. The company had been working with another firm, but Davis decided to switch. "We wanted more brand-based as opposed to product-based PR," he said. "We'd like to focus on the stores themselves as an experience, not just the products."

Oliviers has three New York stores, as well as locations in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco.

A desire to increase olive-oil usage in everyday cooking - particularly in the Midwest, where usage is lower than it is on the East and West Coasts - prompted the NAOOA to seek out a new agency, said president Bob Bauer. The group had worked with another agency for 11 years, but invited 13 agencies to respond to an RFP to become its new agency of record. Bauer said that the association was impressed by Colle & McVoy's prior experience working with the food industry.

Riff Yeager, Colle & McVoy's director of PR, said that four people will work on the account. "People assume olive oil is a special-occasion product," he explained, so the agency will stress its benefits in everyday cooking. To do that, "we think we need to expand media relations efforts beyond the food media, and certainly into lifestyle publications," he said. The agency will discuss uses, such as baking, that aren't usually associated with olive oil.

The firm is currently searching for a chef to act as a spokesperson for olive oil. "We will use a well-recognized chef that appeals to mainstream America," Yeager said.

The NAOOA represents importers in the US and Canada.

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