McCann wins long war for $1.35B Army biz; now, for the hard part

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McCann finally got drafted.

The win of the U.S. Army account, potentially worth $1.35 billion over five years, is welcome proof for the Interpublic Group of Cos.' agency that its parent's long-running losses and an ongoing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission are not prejudicing the network's prospects. Snagging the government's largest ad account also makes up for the departure of $315 million home-improvement chain Lowe's, which departed McCann and Universal McCann for BBDO Worldwide and OMD in September.

One down...

Having cleared one hurdle, McCann WorldGroup now takes on the serious issue of getting more potential recruits to join up. The Army fell short of its recruitment goal for the year ended Sept. 30, meeting only 92% of its target, although Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said that goals for each of the last five months have been achieved. The Army account is initially awarded for a two-year period and can be renewed for three subsequent one-year periods, or up to five years total.

The appointment of McCann ended an arduous review process that began in early 2004 only to be scuttled in April of this year "due to inconsistencies in the evaluation approach," the Army said at the time. It was relaunched in August and the contract of the former agency, Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, extended.

McCann was involved in both reviews, as was each of the other finalists-incumbent Burnett; WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York; and Omnicom Group's BBDO, Atlanta. Burnett will continue working on the account through a three-month transition period.

McCann's creative is likely to make its debut next summer. Burnett's "Army of One" message created in 2000 was dropped last month. No specific tagline has been determined since then.

Criticism of "Army of One" increased after Sept. 11, Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. In the first round of pitches, Burnett clung to the tagline, but dropped it in the second go-round when the agency opted for a more explicit call to action, exhorting the target audience to do something important-i.e., join the Army. The agency declined to comment on the content of its pitch.

McCann also won't discuss its winning idea, although one executive familiar with the pitch said it revolved around the idea of a call to greatness. An agency spokeswoman wouldn't comment.

Eric Keshin, chief operating officer of McCann WorldGroup led the team, which included McCann, Universal McCann, MRM, Momentum, CasaNova Pendrill, Carol H. Williams and IW Group.

`Motivating factors'

"Our message focused on the motivating factors that contribute to a recruit's decision to join," said Mr. Keshin. McCann planners interviewed thousands of recruits and potential recruits to understand their concerns from their initial consideration of joining until sign-up. That data was analyzed using the Demand Funnel, an MRM proprietary customer relationship management tool.

For Burnett, losing the Army-an account President Rich Stoddart flagged as a priority after taking the top job earlier this year-jeopardizes an incipient recovery. Last month, Burnett stole the $200 million Samsung global branding assignment from WPP Group, capping a string of small to midsize wins going back to last year.

Mr. Stoddart said the agency would overcome the loss, which he called a "blip" in the agency's momentum. He said the account represented less than 5% of revenue. "You can't ever hope for uninterrupted momentum."

But it does ratchet up pressure to win two reviews in which Burnett is a finalist-the $95 million Office Depot account and the $125 million Washington Mutual business. Success or failure will determine how many employees will be let go after the Army leaves. About 70 employees touched the business.

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