Avis Hires Leo Burnett to Handle U.S. Creative

McCann Loses Another Key Piece of Business

By Published on .

After a review, Avis has hired Publicis Groupe -owned Leo Burnett as its U.S. creative agency -- dealing another blow to Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann, the incumbent on the account.

The rental-car marketer also changed its media shop. Those duties will now be handled by Publicis sibling Spark, a new spinoff of the Starcom Mediavest Group. The moves, made under Jeannine Haas, Avis' CMO for less than a year, means marketing duties for the brand have largely been consolidated at one holding company. The media business was at WPP's Mediacom, which did not defend.

Representatives for Avis Budget Group told Ad Age it was not ready to make an official announcement about the appointment; Leo Burnett declined to comment.

In a statement, McCann said it remains on the roster and will keep taking on work for Avis. "Although Avis has opted to appoint a new creative agency in the U.S., McCann Erickson will continue to handle Avis [in Europe, the Middle East and Africa] through our U.K. Hub, plus we have just been assigned a project for Budget," the statement said.

"The Avis business, as a percentage of the North American book of business I run ... is not very sizable," Hank Summy, McCann's new North American president, told Ad Age . "In the new business aspect of my job, fear is my friend. I'm always looking at new business and concerned that the size of the pipe isn't what I want it to be. I'm not saying that there's not concern ... but this latest loss of Avis doesn't concern me more [because of ] the business development pipeline and what's there."

Avis Budget Group devoted nearly $30 million in domestic measured media to market the Avis brand between January and November 2011, according to Kantar.

According to McCann, it has had a significant amount of organic growth, expanding its relationships with General Mills, securing a business-to-business assignment in North America for Verizon Communications, and for Coca-Cola it has expanded its business in Brazil and in several Asian markets.

Still, it's unclear to what degree those assignments soften the departure during the past year of several key pieces of business from McCann's New York office and from McCann Erickson globally. Recent account losses include Applebee's, Lufthansa and Nescafe.

McCann Worldgroup, led by Nick Brien for two years, is the biggest driver of revenue for Interpublic. It is no doubt being closely watched by the parent's top management and by shareholders for signs of a turnaround. The pressure is on Mr. Brien to deliver changes. Though it's clear he knows how to overhaul management -- he's brought in a wave of new talent for both creative and operations -- the agency must prove it can consistently attract new clients.

McCann's HumanCare health-marketing arm picked up consumer creative work for several Merck brands a couple of weeks ago. McCann has also won some assignments for Ikea but has not brought in many accounts. The remaining question is whether General Motors will retain McCann as part of its ongoing creative review.

Leo Burnett's win increases the Chicago-based shop's momentum of recent months. It has won work for Chobani, Fifth Third Bancorp, Esurance, Dewar's and MillerCoors' Fosters, Molson and Sparks brands.

Last month, Ad Age named Leo Burnett one of its 10 agencies to watch, after it ended 2011 with a huge win: Along with sibling Digitas , it picked up the Sprint account and succeeds Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners in handling creative duties. It scored nine new-business wins last year and eight clients with organic growth, and hired nearly 300 new employees.

~ ~ ~

Contributing: Alexandra Bruell

Most Popular