LOWE'S TAPS MCCANN TO BUILD $100 MIL BROADCAST CAMPAIGN: GROWING HOME IMPROVEMENT PLAYER AIMS FOR NATIONAL PROFILE

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Home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. late last week hammered out a deal with McCann-Erickson Worldwide, and sent TBWA/Chiat/Day to the shower aisle.

Lowe's decided on an agency for its $100 million broadcast ad account after a creative shoot-out that pitted East Coast against West Coast -- McCann's New York office vs. TBWA/Chiat/Day in Playa Del Rey, Calif.

Incumbent Doner, Southfield, Mich., which had the account since 1990, was in the review until the final phase.

"We are looking for an agency that has the horses to take us beyond local broadcast buying and into national" marketing, said VP-Advertising Dave Tyler, who said he was impressed with McCann's work for MasterCard International.

Creative for Lowe's print ads will remain in-house.

While declining to reveal specifics of the creative pitch, McCann executives said the ideas presented will be used in the coming campaign. No dates have yet been set for when a campaign will begin.

"We'll do both the tactical to drive people into the stores, as well as the brand support," said Don Dillon, president of McCann North America and CEO of the office. "They have done some branding in the past, but they need to go out and do more."

HOME DEPOT IS NO. 1

The $152 billion home-improvement market is led by Home Depot, with annual sales of about $30 billion, followed by Lowe's $13.3 billion, according to the National Home Center News. Other key retailers in the category include Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Wal-Mart Stores.

"Lowe's today is running very fast to catch up with Home Depot," said Walter Loeb, a senior retail analyst and publisher of the Loeb Retail Letter. "It will be a very important step for Lowe's as a brand to be better understood."

Lowe's has stores in 37 states.

Although Lowe's has been expanding aggressively and recently purchased Seattle-based Eagle Hardware & Garden, Mr. Tyler said he expects the biggest growth in the do-it-yourself marketplace to occur in the major metropolitan areas.

Lowe's has plans to expand into a number of major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.

"Fifty percent of the [market] resides in the top 25 metropolitan areas and, until 1997, Lowe's didn't operate in those areas," he said.

The win marks the second big gain in recent weeks for McCann; it earlier was named for the $50 million Hewlett-Packard Co. spinoff company (AA, May 3).

McCann actually pitched its final ideas to both Lowe's and Hewlett-Packard in the same week.

Mr. Dillon, Chairman-Chief Creative Officer Nina DiSesa and their team flew to the West Coast to present to Hewlett-Packard, then turned around and hopped a red-eye flight back East to pitch Lowe's.

McCann also this year has picked up the $50 million Du Pont Co. branding assignment and the $150 million Sprint Corp. media work.

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