Changing Themes: USPS breaks effort amid account review

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The U.S. Postal Service is taking the unusual tack of launching a campaign from its current shop as it opens a review of its $90 million ad account. The theme "Fly like an eagle" is gone with the wind in its first sustained ad effort since the twin traumas of Sept. 11 and anthrax.

The campaign from Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, breaks today on TV and in print, with the theme of "brought to you by the U.S. Postal Service." The ads show good news that the postal service can deliver: In the opening TV spot, a high school student rushes to his mail box to find a letter of acceptance to a chosen college. AdAge.com QwikFIND aan22y.

The new theme will be retained even if Burnett is replaced, said Larry Speakes, the postal service's advertising manager. Mr. Speakes said the "Fly" theme, initially launched by Interpublic Group of Cos.'s Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide in 1998, didn't test well, while the new one can translate into a variety of more targeted efforts. "It's a solid line and a worthy successor to our old `We deliver for you,"' said Mr. Speakes. "This one has legs and brings joy and emotion."

The Postal Service will follow the launch of its overall campaign this week with a heavy push aimed at small business starting in mid-March using the new theme.

Mr. Speakes said the postal service's decision to launch a new campaign while its account is in review reflects the unique circumstances following Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks. The Postal Service first temporarily halted all advertising, then launched a spot from Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, which had never handled its creative, and then followed up with special holiday-oriented spots from Burnett. Now, the postal service needs something more permanent.

Mr. Speakes said the Postal Service was not unhappy with its creative, but launched its review to achieve savings by consolidating work now handled by four firms into one. Besides Burnett, the Postal Service now uses FCB for direct, Publicis Groupe's Frankel, Chicago, for promotion and Grey's MediaCom, New York, for media buying. The Postal Service did not put its minority media accounts held by Chisholm-Mingo Group, A Partnership and Bravo Group up for review. A list of contenders has not yet been compiled.

Lisa Bennett, exec VP-executive creative director at Burnett, said the new campaign seeks to convey the emotion that comes across with receiving a letter rather than an e-mail or other communication. "There is nothing that can replace getting a letter like that. It is something very powerful and it shows the Postal Service doesn't just deliver pieces of mail."

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