Donny: It's crap! Ikea: You're hired!

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Donny Deutsch called Ikea's furniture "crap." So what does Ikea do? Rewards his agency its account, of course.

Last April, Deutsch Chairman Donny Deutsch went on record in Playboy damning the Swedish retailer that had earlier fired his agency. Its furniture, he said, is "total crap ... It is crapola. ... I was always astounded at the shit people had to do to put that furniture together." Yet last week, Mr. Deutsch's agency won back U.S. creative duties for the brand.

Given marketers' tendency to be protective of and devoted to their brands, and a little touchy about anyone criticizing them or even touting a rival's products, it's a pretty remarkable turnaround.

"We're aware of his comment. I cannot speak of his intentions there," an Ikea spokesman said. He added that at another point in the same interview, Mr. Deutsch called Ikea "wonderful" and "progressive." Deutsch CEO Linda Sawyer called her boss' jibes "a non-issue. . . . I know Donny has tremendous respect and gratitude for Ikea."

So just how did the two come together originally-and get back together?

They first worked together in 1989. Just four years after Ikea opened its first store in suburban Philadelphia, the Swedish retailer moved its account from Washington-based Goldberg Marchesano and Associates to Deutsch. At the same time, Ms. Sawyer moved from Goldberg, where she'd run Ikea, to Deutsch.

Moving around

The relationship ended in 2000, and when the account went into review, Deutsch didn't participate.

After Deutsch, Ikea moved to Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, but stayed less than a year. Next up was Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, which resigned the account in 2002, even after winning top honors-a Film Grand Prix-at the prestigious International Advertising Festival in Cannes in 2003 for an Ikea ad, "Lamp." From there the account went to Secret Weapon Marketing.

Dick Sittig, founder of Secret Weapon, said as he quit the business in November because Ikea "implemented only a tiny fraction of [our] recommendations."

Both Deutsch and Ikea say they've been in touch over the years. Ms. Sawyer became friendly with Pernille Lopez, president, Ikea North America, during the agency's earlier Ikea relationship, and the two stayed in touch even after the client-agency relationship ended. Talks about working together again began this fall, and firmed up over the holidays.

The $60 million account adds much-needed revenue for Deutsch, which lost many marquee clients in 2005, including Bank of America, Revlon, Mitsubishi and Coors. "I believe this [win] is symbolic," said Ms. Sawyer. "It shows that we're back."

Sounding a bit like a spouse fresh out of marital counseling, Ikea's Ms. Lopez said in a statement, "Having been apart for some time, we have both learned and developed. Now we are back together again sharing the same values." Ms. Sawyer said, "The strength of our relationship goes beyond a pithy statement like the one Donny made in Playboy. They know who is here. We're ready for our next chapter."

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