Homebuilder Pulte Hires GSD&M Idea City Without Review

Agency's Purpose Institute Among Deciding Factors

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The largest home-builder in the country, PulteGroup, has tapped Omnicom Group's GSD&M Idea City as its new lead agency, replacing independent Richards Group without a review.

Pulte Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl Meyer said the shift was prompted by work the marketer had pursued with the Purpose Institute, set up by Idea City founder Roy Spence last year to help businesses stand for something (other than financial results).

"They have built a special area for themselves," Ms. Wahl Meyer said of the Austin-based agency. "Pulte has always been a company really focused on its culture, values and customer service ... and it's always great when you have an agency partner that matches that." The agency change, which was done without a review, comes a year after Ms. Wahl Meyer, who was formerly VP-chief marketing officer at Chrysler, joined the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., home builder.

Deborah Wahl Meyer
Deborah Wahl Meyer
She had never worked with Mr. Spence or the agency before, but said she was "an admirer of the Purpose work that had been done with Procter & Gamble and other brands" such as Southwest Airlines. So, earlier this year, Pulte quietly tasked the Purpose Institute to handle some internal work for the brand, and decided it wanted to expand the relationship to bring Idea City aboard for Pulte's consumer advertising as well.

The agency officially takes the reins from Richards at the beginning of year, and will handle creative messaging, including traditional, digital and mobile executions. Richards Group didn't return calls for comment by press time. For media duties, Pulte uses a variety of local and regional agencies.

Duff Stewart, president-CEO of Idea City, said the win marks a goal the agency has been striving for: to create opportunities where the Purpose Institute becomes a vehicle for new-business relationships. "If you think about a traditional pitch with a review, we've got all sorts of other competitors, RFPs, chemistry checks and all that," said Mr. Stewart. "But with the Purpose Institute we first get to know a brand deeply ... and then help them to bring their purpose to life."

The win comes on the heels of Idea City's loss last month of BMW.

PulteGroup, which was created through the merger last year of Pulte Homes and Centex Homes, is hoping that its new agency can help it connect with consumers at a difficult period in the home-buying marketplace. The 60-year old company -- which operates in 29 states and Washington D.C. under various brands, including Pulte, Centex, DiVosta and Del Webb -- posted a net loss of $995 million for the third quarter. Net new-home orders in the period were 3,566, a 12% decrease from the same period last year.

"Until consumer confidence improves, the market will remain challenging, but that's why it's really important to engage with customers," Ms. Wahl Meyer said. She declined to discuss Pulte's marketing budget, but according to Kantar Media and industry sources, the company's measured media budget is currently between $10 million and $20 million annually.

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