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Buffalo's Travers/Collins/Partners will handle a Michigan food company's communications needs, giving the local advertising firm its largest client.

Based in Jackson, Mich., Dawn Food Products Inc. is a major supplier to the nation's bakery industry. The company selected the Buffalo advertising and public relations firm after a nationwide agency review.

William M. Collins, a principal in the local agency, said the addition of Dawn to its client list is a major shot in the arm.

"They immediately become our largest account, representing a budget of more than $2 million, annually," Collins said. "It's a great win for us to go up against agencies from across the U.S. and come out on top. It's great for us and great for Buffalo's communications sector."

There is more than a little irony in T/C/P's winning of the Dawn account. Last year at this time, the Buffalo firm was reeling from the bad news that its then-largest client, Rich Products Inc., that it had selected O'Connell, Norton & Partners of Chicago, the food marketing division of New York City-based Bozell, as its primary agency.

Loss of the Rich Products work forced the layoff of six T/C/P employees and the decision to leave another six positions vacant. In an interview following the loss of the account, Collins called it "a very bitter pill to swallow," but vowed the agency would "live to fight another day."

The local agency has no immediate plans to beef up its 35-person staff, taking a "wait-and-see" position on hiring new employees to handle Dawn's needs.

"We're pretty lean and mean right now, and considering what we've been through this past year, we see no reason to rush into a hiring blitz," Collins said.

He noted that the agency's experience in handling the Rich account that put it in a position to go after Dawn and ultimately be successful. While there is some overlap in the product lines of Rich Products and Dawn Food Products, neither company found a conflict in T/C/P being Dawn's agency of record, while continuing to provide a limited range of services to the hometown food company.

Founded in 1920, Dawn Food Products is a major supplier of various doughs, fillings, toppings, mixes and ready-to-bake sweets to the bakery trade. With more than $800 million in sales in 1998, its customer list includes restaurants, supermarkets and institutional bakeries, including such big name retail outlets as Mrs. Field's, Starbucks, Manhattan Bagel and Krispy Kreme.

The contract with Dawn will see T/C/P working on virtually every aspect of the family-owned company's communications efforts, from advertising, public relations and promotions, to Website development, product introductions and sales training and materials.

"The wholesale bakery industry is in a consolidation mode and a large part of our job will be to help Dawn position itself to be one of its biggest players. It's an opportunity to use our full range of skills on their behalf," Collin added.

T/C/P is one of several local communications firms finding success in seeking accounts outside Western New York in recent years to steady their portfolios. For example: Buffalo's Crowley Webb & Associates struck pay dirt by providing services to contact lens giant, Wesley-Jessen, based in Chicago; the Eric Mower Agency's out-of-town agency list includes Wisconsin-based plumbing fixtures producer, Kohler Inc.

"These days if you think your market area begins and ends at borders of Erie County, you're never going to reach your potential," Collins said.

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