Sprint Starts Agency Review

Under a New CEO, the Carrier Is Trying to Reverse Declining Growth

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Sprint's Frobinsons.
Sprint's Frobinsons.

In his first move on the job, Sprint's new CEO revamped the carrier's prices. Now, he may be coming for its marketing.

Sprint has issued a request for creative proposals for its account, Ad Age has learned. The RFP went out on Friday, according to multiple agency executives.

A spokesman from Sprint declined to comment.

On Aug. 6, Sprint replaced CEO Dan Hesse with Marcelo Claure, a board member. In his third week, Mr. Claure introduced price cuts in family and individual payment plans, ditching the third-placed carrier's brief "Framily" branding in a bid to better compete with AT&T, Verizon and smaller rival T-Mobile.

When the new plans were announced, Sprint CMO Jeff Hallock told Ad Age that the company's agency roster -- Figliulo & Partners, DigitasLBI and Leo Burnett's Arc division -- remained intact.

The scope of the new review is unclear. According to some executives familiar with the matter, it centers on the broadcast TV duties being handled by Figliulo & Partners. Others said it could go further, but that could not be confirmed.

Sprint has undergone a wave of changes since Softbank, the Japanese technology company, officially became its majority owner in July 2013. CMO Bill Malloy stepped down in September. Two months later, Sprint replaced Leo Burnett as its TV creative agency with Figliulo & Partners, a firm led by TBWA veteran Mark Figliulo. Masayoshi Son, Softbank's CEO, reportedly suggested that Sprint fire all of its agency partners. Sprint denied its agencies were under consideration following the reports.

The carrier, plagued by a lengthy network upgrade, has lost 714,000 postpaid subscribers over the past year.

In March, Figliulo & Partners ushered in a broad media campaign to promote Sprint's "Framily" pricing plan. The ads, starring an off-beat family, included multiple minor celebrities, including comedian Andrew Dice Clay and appearances from NBA star Kevin Durant and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

After the introduction of its new family pricing plan, Sprint said the fate of the "Frobinsons" campaign was still to be determined.

Representatives from Figliulo & Partners did not return calls for comment.

In 2013, Sprint spent $1.56 billion in U.S. advertising, according to the Ad Age DataCenter.

Contributing: Maureen Morrison, Alexandra Bruell

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