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The Vidalia Onion Committee in Vidalia, GA, has added the Langston Libby Group in Atlanta to its marketing team. The decision came after an extensive search of some of the better public relations firms in the United States, from boutique agencies with heavy produce and commodity experience to large marketing companies that have launched many recognizable national campaigns.

Wendy Brannen, executive director of the committee, headed the search, and the way the new hire happened was a surprise even to her. Steve Langston, the Atlanta-based marketer who facilitated the committee's well-known DreamWorks Shrek deal in 2010, contacted her a few days after the formal search had begun. "Steve called me, as usual, brimming with excitement and a fresh batch of ideas for 2011," Ms. Brannen said in a Dec. 15 press release. "I told him the VOC was in the process of seeking the right agency partner for next year and that we needed to sort that out before I could talk tactics." Mr. Langston asked her if he could throw his hat in the ring, to which Ms. Brannen was receptive so long as the deal included not only his creative plan but also the capacity to see it through.

"Melissa Libby is an agency veteran specializing in food-related public relations," Mr. Langston said in the release. "I knew if I could get Melissa on board, we would form a partnership that would perfectly suit the VOC's marketing needs. And, we're Georgia people working to promote Georgia's official state vegetable, so we're invested all the way." With Mr. Langston's food marketing and cross-promotions experience and Ms. Libby's public relations expertise, the VOC agreed.

"We have been very meticulous with this process," Ms. Brannen said in the release. "Just narrowing down the firms to which we would send a request for proposal took a lot of homework, and then we gave those agencies ample time to submit a plan that would wow us." She narrowed the list down a small group of firms that were invited to present in person to a marketing subcommittee Dec. 9, and firms were notified of the committee's decision Dec. 14.

Sahlman Williams has been the VOC's agency of record for four years. But regarding the hiring of a new firm this year, Ms. Brannen admitted that both she and the committee felt strongly that a move was necessary but said she will miss working with her account rep, Ashley Lansdale, who Ms. Brannen characterized as having been a bright, loyal and hard-working part of the Vidalia team.

Heidi McIntyre of McIntyre Marketing in Rockledge, FL, has been a key player in the committee’s retail marketing efforts over the past four years, and she will remain on the team.