Best Buy for Business Begins Agency Search

Retailer's Store Within a Store Is Growing Player in Office-Supply Sector

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COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- Best Buy, the nation's largest electronics retailer, is on the hunt for an ad agency to manage one of its fast-growing store-within-a store brands: Best Buy for Business.
Best Buy's outreach to ad agencies for its business unit has sparked speculation that it may dismantle its own in-house advertising agency.
Best Buy's outreach to ad agencies for its business unit has sparked speculation that it may dismantle its own in-house advertising agency.

Best Buy for Business competes directly with big-box office-supply brands, like Staples and OfficeMax, which in recent years have beefed up their computer and electronics offerings. "I can't put a number on how big that account will be," Best Buy spokeswoman Lisa Hawks said. "This is at an initial stage to see where to take this."

End of in-house system?
Within the last month, the Minneapolis-based company issued requests for information to a handful of unnamed shops, sparking speculation that the retailer, following the recent departure of its marketing head, Michael Linton, might dismantle its in-house advertising agency, a scenario fiercely denied by the company.

The in-house group, known as Best Buy Advertising, or BBA, is headed by marketing veteran Ruby Anik, senior VP-marketing communications, has a staff that numbers in the hundreds and was formed more than 20 years ago.

"There is no [request for proposal] out on the Best Buy brand," Ms. Hawks said. "It's this whole hybrid philosophy to pull in outside resources as we need specific expertise. This is all under the umbrella of Ruby's philosophy of positioning Best Buy Advertising as a hybrid agency."

Potential billings were not disclosed for the Best Buy for Business account, but Ms. Hawks confirmed the process is being handled in-house.

Will mirror Crispin relationship
She added that the retailer's move to recruit an agency to handle the division will likely result in a relationship similar to the one created earlier this month with MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky, which will handle branding duties for Geek Squad, the retailer's store-within-a-store concept that offers 24-hour computer service. That account is estimated at about $25 million and will include broadcast duties.

For Geek Squad, Crispin will be working closely with BBA, and the shop will be part of a cross-functional team, which includes digital-marketing agency Organic, public-relations firm Ketchum and media-buying shop Starcom, according to Best Buy.

The retailer has already put in place a Detroit-based public-relations firm, independent Airfoil, as it moves to create a similar team for Best Buy for Business.

Lengthy agency roster
Ms. Hawks said Best Buy has a lengthy agency roster, including Miami-based La Communidad for Hispanic marketing, Avenue A RazorFish for interactive duties at, Rapp Collins for marketing research, Starcom for media buying and public-relations firm Ketchum.

More recently, Best Buy has worked with U.K. shop Clemmow Hornby Inge to handle its debut campaign for the launch of 10 Best Buy Mobile stores in Manhattan. If those pilot-project stores are successful, Best Buy Mobile could launch nationally.

Best Buy, which was expected to conduct a search to replace outgoing CMO Michael Linton, has instead tapped Best Buy marketing veteran Barry Judge to remain in the company's top marketing position with the title of senior VP-marketing.

Within the last month, Ms. Anik was promoted from her position of senior VP-advertising and promotion to senior VP-marketing communications, adding the duties of public relations for the store-within-a-store brands, internal communications and employee communications.