Stage May Be Set for Omnicom Sibling Showdown Over Capital One

Credit-Card Issuer's Agency DDB Watches as BBDO Pitches Super Bowl, Branding Work

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Capital One is becoming the latest in an expanding list of expensive headaches for DDB, Chicago, and a sibling shop is only making the pain more acute.
The credit-card company has added Omnicom Group's BBDO, Atlanta, to its roster of agencies, marking it the second time this year that the Southern shop has poked sibling DDB in the eye. Earlier this year, the Atlanta agency managed to swipe Dell Computer's $250 million consumer account from DDB. Now, Capital One is fielding general-branding and Super Bowl pitches from BBDO after rejecting ideas for both from DDB earlier this summer.

Hibernia Bank acquisition
A BBDO spokesman confirmed the agency joined Capital One's roster after the marketer acquired Atlanta-based Hibernia Bank -- a BBDO client -- late last year. He declined to comment further.

The account, measured at $360 million by TNS Media Intelligence figures, is one DDB can ill afford to lose after parting with nine-figure chunks of business from Home Depot, Dell and JC Penney earlier this year. But persistent rumors that the Capital One business could be in play -- first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times -- have fueled what appears to be an increasing sense of worry at the agency.

Two Chicago agency chiefs reported receiving a steady stream of resumes from DDB employees in recent weeks; the agency announced plans to lay off 2% of staff following the loss of Penney's $430 million business to Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi.

Outperforming rivals
Capital One's apparent dissatisfaction with DDB's work comes at a time when the No. 4 Visa and MasterCard issuer is incrementally outperforming competitors, which industry experts said reflected well on the marketer's "What's In Your Wallet?" campaign.

Capital One's "card debt outstanding," a key measure within the industry, grew 5% during the first half of 2006, to $52.84 billion, compared to 4.9% for the industry as a whole. Spending on its cards, another key measure, increased 17% compared to 14.5% industry wide.

"They're performing better than the industry average, and they're gaining market share," said David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, a prominent industry newsletter. "Those are good results."

A Capital One spokeswoman did not return phone calls for comment.

A DDB spokeswoman said the agency was aware BBDO had joined Capital One's roster through the Hibernia acquisition, but that it did not expect that to have an impact on the amount of work DDB gets on the brand.

Impressive account list
Despite the sky-is-falling buzz surrounding the agency's losses, it remains large and significant, with an account list that includes massive international brands such as McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch and State Farm. DDB also offset some of the recent losses by winning Safeway's $200 million account this summer.

Holding on to Capital One could prove to be a crucial test for agency CEO Dana Anderson, a Chicago advertising veteran whose two-plus years at the helm of DDB have been notable mostly for account losses.

Ms. Anderson recently reorganized the management of the office, naming Paul Tilley managing director for creative, replacing former Chief Creative Officer Michael Folino, who quit the agency earlier this year after only six months. While some have questioned the McDonald's account veteran's creative chops, most DDBers say he's good at managing relationships, a skill DDB will need if it intends to keep Capital One.
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