- Bulgaria's winemakers, long regarded as plonk producers by UK drinkers, have picked M&C Saatchi to give it an image makeover.
The assignment comes from Domaine Boyar, the country's first privately-owned wine company, which says it will put a £2 million annual spend behind its bid to dominate the British wine market.
The appointment is expected to lead to a TV campaign by the middle of next year, marking the start of a campaign to give Bulgarian wines a consistent quality image. The spend would make the company the biggest spender in the UK market, outstripping the £1.3 million budget of the Californian producer E & J Gallo.
"This won't just be a burst but a brand-building exercise," Moray MacLennan, the M&C Saatchi joint chief executive promised.
The initiative follows big improvements to wine production facilities in Bulgaria which have been hampered by run-down vineyards, under-investment and institutionalised corruption in the wake of Communism's collapse.
Media planning and buying will continue to be handled by RCL Communications which helped co-ordinate the three-way creative pitch.
Bulgaria's appeal to UK wine drinkers has faded substantially since the late 80s, when it began to lose ground to invaders from the US, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Spain and Hungary. Domaine Boyar currently accounts for 3.5 per cent of UK wine sales.
The company is fighting back with a New World-style range of red and white wines under the Premim Oak label plus new wines under the Premium Cuvee and Premium Reserve names. All will sell at between £4.99 and £6.99.
"About 35 per cent of UK wine drinkers buy within that range," MacLennan explained. "We'll be targeting people who like discovering new wines but aren't necessarily wine buffs."
He said the TV advertising would be consistent throughout the year and not be subject to the seasonal blitzes of other producers. "Wine producers traditionally feel more comfortable with print," he added. "But we feel it's right to use the most powerful medium available to build the brand."