MetLife Opens Creative and Media Agency Review

Marketer Seeks Rule-Breaking Shop That Might 'Make It Uncomfortable' on $65 Million Account

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After more than 50 years of working with WPP's Y&R, MetLife has launched a creative and media search for its $65 million advertising account, according to several executives familiar with the matter. WPP sibling Mediaedge:cia is the media incumbent.

One person who saw the brief from MetLife told Ad Age the provider of insurance and other financial services is seeking partners "to help us get to next level," and that creative agencies were tasked with partnering with a media agency for the pitch. "The kind of agency we are looking for might make us uncomfortable," the brief said, adding that the type of shop it would hire need be strategically smart, deeply curious, hungry for innovation, creatively inventive and willing to take risks.

MetLife in the brief also noted it was searching for ways to avoid commoditization, though it wasn't readily clear if that meant from a brand standpoint or with its media buys, and to cope with generational changes among its customers.

MetLife did not immediately return requests for comment nor did representatives at Y&R or Mediaedge:cia. One executive familiar with the situation said the marketer has hired New York consultancy SourceMartin to help with the review process, but SourceMartin representatives did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.

According to Kantar Media, MetLife spent $66 million on domestic measured media in 2009, and a little more than $15 million for the first three months of 2010.

Digital duties, which are at Neo at Ogilvy, are not affected by the review, nor are business-to-business duties at Bernstein Rein.

It's not the first time the account has gone into review during its long tenure with Y&R; in 2000, the marketer called a review, but Y&R managed to hold onto the business despite challenges from TBWA/Chiat/Day and then-FCB Worldwide. At the time, billings on the account were around $35 million.

For Y&R, the news comes as a major blow to a longstanding client relationship, and is the second major account to go up for review this week. Yesterday consulting firm Accenture announced it is launching a review of its $40 million to $45 million advertising account, also handled by Y&R.