Campaign change: Sears invites BBDO, seeks new ad ideas

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Sears, Roebuck & Co. is said to have invited BBDO Worldwide to pitch ideas even as it pressures its core agencies to come up with a replacement for its 15-month-old "Sears: Where else?" campaign.

Incumbents WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather and Y&R Advertising, both Chicago, will present new creative to Sears at the retailer's Hoffman Estates, Ill., headquarters Dec. 19, according to one executive. Ogilvy Chairman-CEO Shelly Lazarus is said to be leading her agency's effort, which has included the hiring of a number of freelancers in the Chicago office.

Janine Bousquette, who joined the retailer in November as exec VP-chief customer and marketing officer, wants to get a new campaign on the air as soon as possible, said one agency executive. "She hates the [current] work," he said.

Added another executive close to the situation: "It's not a secret that Janine is a change agent and is anxious to make change." Sears spends $1.5 billion annually on marketing.

Ms. Bousquette, a former marketing chief at Pepsi and eToys, invited Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, to pitch, several executives close to the situation said. It is also possible she will reach out to Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, one person said, although an executive at that agency denied there has been contact. A spokesman in BBDO's New York office declined to comment. Ms. Bousquette worked with both agencies at former jobs. Ogilvy and Y&R both referred calls to Sears.


Ms. Bousquette "is putting pressure on all of [the agencies.] She is challenging them to be productive and really to raise the sales bar here," said a Sears executive who requested anonymity. Ms. Bousquette could not be reached for comment.

A Sears spokeswoman downplayed the Dec. 19 meeting, and said the retailer regularly calls in its agencies. "Absolutely, there is not an agency review in place," she said. She declined to comment on whether additional shops have been invited to pitch some portion of Sears' account.

The "Sears: Where else?" campaign broke in September 2001 and replaced the promotional tagline, "Good life at a great price. Guaranteed."

"Sears: Where else?" mixes branding and product pitches. Each ad features an everyday situation and ends with a checklist of relevant products from Sears' hardware and soft-goods lines. The campaign, developed by Y&R after a shootout between the two WPP shops, was viewed as an improvement over previous Sears' work.

The advertising reassessment comes as Sears prepares a turnaround push. The retailer is giving stores a facelift, turning them into less of a department store and more of a hybrid with shopping carts and easier checkout, the spokeswoman said. The retailer has not given up its positioning as a high/low retailer, with sales on certain items drawing customers who then pick up non-sale items. Wal-Mart, which surpassed Sears as the nation's largest retailer in 1991, has built its success on an everyday-low-price strategy. "We are not walking away from [high/low] right now," the spokeswoman said.

In November, Sears' same-store sales dropped 10.9%. For the first 43 weeks of the year, same-store sales were off 6.2%.

contributing: rich thomaselli

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