Kruger picks Broken Heart Love Affair as new agency

As it continues to invest in its brands, the paper company wants to do more creative work that drives business results.

Kruger Products has moved creative work for its portfolio of brands to Broken Heart Love Affair, ending a 20-year relationship with John St.

The account move adds creative brand work for brands including Scotties, Cashmere, SpongeTowels and Purex to masterbrand work Broken Heart Love Affair had already done on Kruger. Bev Hammond, the agency’s co-founder and chief business officer, adds that while the brand work will be handled by Broken Heart Love Affair, sister agency Lifelong Crush will also be utilized for work relating to the customer journey. She adds that this is the agency’s biggest account, and has already made to-be-announced hires at both BHLA and Lifelong Crush to help with the work.

There was no formal RFP process for the work; Susan Irving, Kruger’s CMO, says BHLA and John St. “put their best foot forward” working on different parts of Kruger’s advertising over the last year, which led to the decision to consolidate the accounts.

Kruger was one of Broken Heart Love Affair’s first clients after opening its doors early last year, building on a relationship between the company and BHLA’s predecessor agency, Republic, while Irving had previously worked with co-founders Todd Mackie and Denise Rossetto when she was at PepsiCo and the creatives were at BBDO.

In the summer, the agency created a masterbrand campaign embracing life’s “messy moments” as being what makes us human (and showing a role for all of the company’s paper products in cleaning them up). The “Unapologetically Human” campaign has also been adapted in the U.S. for its White Cloud brand and for multicultural audiences here in Canada.

Kruger still engaged John St. for brand-specific campaigns, such as one for this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts and pivoting this year’s campaign for the Cashmere Collection in response to the pandemic. The rest of the company’s agency roster remains unchanged, with Lg2 handling Francophone work for Quebec, Wavemaker on media and Ethnicity Matters on multicultural work.

Irving says that while cost savings are always going to be a factor any time a company consolidates its agency relationships, the decision was just as much about getting the best work.

“At the end of the day, you want both,” she says. “You want efficiency but you also want effectiveness.”

In its Q4 results, released today, Kruger reported SG&A expenses were $36.7 million in Q4, a year-over-year increase of 38.8%, partially attributed to an increase in marketing investment. Irving says most of the company’s investment into marketing came in the second half of the year, due to putting everything on pause when the pandemic began and needing to re-plan the rest of the year, but the increase is something the company expects to continue through Q1 of 2021.

For the full year, revenue was up 5.7% year-over-year, 8.9% in Canada alone, attributed to increased demand, with the company citing “Unapologetically Human” as helping to drive its success.

Irving says the mix of positive reception among consumers and business results it drove is the kind work the company wants to do more to be leaders not just in paper, but in marketing as a whole in Canada. But even though masterbrand work will have more of a role at Kruger than in past years, Irving says campaigns specific to its brands are still vital.

“There’s so many changes in consumer behaviour given the pandemic, it’s why ‘Unapologetically Human’ was born,” Irving says. “But you can’t just rely on a masterbrand campaign. There has to be a balance. They need to stand out within their categories as well, and you can’t do that with masterbrand alone.”

Both Hammond and Jason Chaney, BHLA’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, say the success of “Unapologetically Human” is a great proof point for the agency’s model, focused on giving clients access directly to senior talent.

“[The expanded assignment] opens new creative opportunities for us, in terms of how we express each of the brands and connect them to the masterbrand positioning,” Chaney adds. “It’s going to be transformational work for each brand, and in order to make a significant transformation for incredibly well-developed and well-loved brands, it takes very senior conversations and people that have pretty significant experience and can build that relationship with the client.”

The move to BHLA ends a 20-year relationship between Kruger and John St. Former CMO Nancy Marcus brought the agency on shortly after joining Kruger in 2001, assisting her on a mandate to build a portfolio of brands shortly after the company acquired the Scott Paper business. That relationship has lead to many of Kruger’s brand leading market share in their respective categories, and Irving praised the agency’s work over the last two decades.

“The work John St. and Nancy Marcus did over the years developing our portfolio into such strong brands, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are today without some of the work done over the years on Cashmere, Scotties and Purex. They are a great agency. This has to do with change and where we want to bring the future business.”

Work as part of the new relationship is planned to debut later this month. Other wins for BHLA so far in 2021 include the Royal Ontario Museum, MadeGood Foods and Internova Travel.