Wieden Parts Ways With Starbucks

Agency's Founder Says 'It Just Makes Sense' to End 4-Year-Old Relationship

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Wieden & Kennedy said it is parting ways with Starbucks, ending a relationship that began in 2004.

"There are times when it just makes sense to part ways with a client," Wieden founder Dan Wieden said in a statement. "In this case, this seems to be the best decision for both parties."

Other agency relationships
In a statement, Starbucks' senior VP-marketing, Terry Davenport, said Wieden's decision was a response to Starbucks' recent move to ask a number of agencies it works with, including Wieden, to "provide ideas to move the brand forward. ... And, as a result, Wieden has decided to opt out of the process," he said.

While Wieden is Starbucks' primary agency, the retailer has worked with a number of other agencies in recent years on co-branded products. Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB, New York, is the primary shop on its grocery coffee business. Starbucks has also worked with Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners on the bottled Frappucino beverages it co-markets with Pepsi and Energy BBDO for the coffee liqueur brand it co-marketed with Beam Global Wine & Spirits.

But Wieden, which also handled media buying and planning for the coffee roaster, as well as much of its in-store graphics work, had been responsible for the first large-scale advertising in Starbucks' history, including its first TV push last winter.

But Starbucks' business has fallen on hard times of late. In July it announced it would close 600 stores. And the marketing department hasn't been immune from the cuts, either, as a number of key personnel have departed and, by some accounts, as much as 30% of the staff had been cut.

Key execs
Those changes also included the promotion of Mr. Davenport to his current post, and the return of former Starbucks executive Harry Roberts -- seen as a key ally of CEO Howard Schultz -- to the company as chief creative officer. Mr. Roberts is said to have taken a very hands-on role.

Wieden, attempting to navigate these changes, is said to have had a hard time selling work through to the client. And it was apparently not willing to participate in a series of jump balls with other shops for future assignments.

Starbucks, despite its prominence as a brand, spent $37.6 million in measured media last year, a small sum compared to other big-name Wieden clients, including Coca-Cola ($411 million) and Nike ($184 million).