Office Depot airs back-to-school push from third agency in three years

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"It's not business as usual at Office Depot," says Jerri DeVard, executive VP-chief customer officer, who oversees marketing at the 32-year-old chain.

The office supplies chain on Sunday will begin its first consumer-focused campaign from Young & Rubicam, the WPP-owned agency that recently became Office Depot's third creative shop in three years. The consumer push comes two months after a campaign promoting the brand to small businesses.

"We have become very targeted around who we're talking to and what message resonates," says DeVard, who joined Boca Raton, Florida-based Office Depot last year.

Executives say the company is having success separating its consumer business from its business-to-business offerings, a departure from recent strategy.

Last summer, for example, Office Depot promoted its services and inventory for businesses and consumers alike in a campaign using its familiar "Taking care of business" theme. That work was created by Omnicom Group's Zimmerman, an agency that held the account for less than a year before Office Depot put it in review last December.

Zimmerman had also been handling media duties, which went to WPP's MediaCom at the same time that Y&R won creative.

"We recently announced WPP as our new marketing agency," CEO Gerry Smith said on a recent earnings call with analysts. "They are well regarded and proven firm in the industry that we believe can help accelerate our demand generation efforts by providing more relevant, cohesive and compelling marketing campaigns across our channels."

He noted that the brand is ramping up its marketing investment, and DeVard says the budget for the new back-to-school push exceeds that of last year. According to Kantar Media, Office Depot spent $14.8 million on measured media in the U.S. last July and August; the chain spent $32.5 million for 2017 as a whole.

Office Depot's changes come at a time when rivals are also examining their structures in an effort to compete with Amazon for business from both consumers and other businesses. Amazon Business, which began three years ago, has grown in market share. Other players such as Costco have begun to offer their own business-focused stores.

"There are a lot of people that sell many of the things we offer, but very few sell all of what we have," says DeVard.

The new campaign will include TV, digital video, radio and direct mail. Its two 15-second spots will also air in Spanish, a first for the chain, as the brand seeks to widen its net and also target college students and parents of elementary-school-age children.

"The key thing for us was to focus on the depth and breadth, showing our selection of supplies," says Jessica Post, exec VP-managing director at Y&R, noting the campaign's use of fun and humor.

For its most recent quarter, Office Depot reported a 6 percent rise in revenue from the year-earlier period to $2.8 billion, while net income was $33 million, roughly half of what it was a year earlier, due in part to the higher marketing costs.

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