Estee Lauder Cos.' Oct. 30 decision to retain Bates Manhattan as agency of record surprised the ad industry, just as Miller Brewing Co.'s Sept. 27 decision to keep Bates USA on its Genuine Draft account had.
Losing either would have been a severe blow to the Cordiant unit, still recovering from the loss of $400 million in M&M/Mars worldwide billings earlier this year.
Bates also surprised the ad world two weeks ago by winning the $40 million Electronic Data Systems account in a competition with D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, and the Richards Group, Dallas. Goldsmith/Jeffrey, New York, previously had the account.
Lauder had been reviewing its ad account for 18 months, and sources close to the company had predicted the Lowe Group would win it. Lowe will continue to handle some creative assignments, according to a Lauder statement, but "Bates will do most of the creative," as well as all media planning and placement.
"Bates Manhattan is best suited to handle the business going forward," the statement said. Asked for further comment, a Lauder spokeswoman noted, "Examining our options was the prudent thing to do. We....are very happy with the decision we made."
Though Lauder is in the midst of an initial public offering and an acquisition of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, sources close to the cosmetics company were unsure how much those factored into the decision or if the real impetus to stay put came from the Miller and EDS victories.
Sources at agencies bested by Bates in the informal Miller review have suggested that Bates' retention of Genuine Draft might not be permanent. But Bates will start production of the creative that won the review in several days, and if it can turn around the brand's sagging sales, it would appear to have a clear field.
Bates also is in a number of new-business pitches, including the $50 million PCS PrimeCo, $20 million Cruise Line International Association and $5 million to $10 million Kinney Shoe Corp. reviews.
Bill Whitehead, Bates USA president-chief operating officer, said a new attitude is taking root after the sudden spate of good news. "You can't win with a losing attitude," he said.
Mr. Whitehead, who took command of Bates USA Sept. 25, when Frank Assumma left to become chairman-CEO of Wells Rich Greene/BDDP, said Bates management is tackling other challenges as well. A big priority is eliminating a fractious, territorial culture inside the agency. He also vows to beef up the creative department, headed by Mike Robertson, with a series of new hires.