May, the U.S.' No. 2 department store chain with annual sales of $12 billion, still will handle much of its retail ads in-house at the divisions.
"The challenge was to develop a common brand positioning that can also accommodate the promotional side," said Doner CEO Alan Kalter.
A new effort will come in time for Thanksgiving. Ads will include spots plugging major promotional events for Famous-Barr, Filene's, Foley's, Kaufmann's, Meier & Frank, Robinsons-May and Strawbridge's stores.
Doner was selected following a review conducted by Select Resources International, West Hollywood, Calif. Other finalists included N.W. Ayer & Partners and Merkley Newman Harty, both New York, and Richards Group, Dallas. Ayer and Merkley withdrew amid concerns the account was more retail- than brand-driven.
Media buying remains at incumbents, the bulk handled by Janik & Associates, Los Angeles.
"What they are really trying to do is get a better sell-through," said Stephen Latz, retail analyst, A.E. Edwards & Sons.
May's sales have been strong, rising to $7.64 billion during the first eight months of fiscal 1998, up 5.4% over the same period last year. Still, the company is under pressure from mass merchandisers, discounters and specialty retailers.
Contributing: Laura Petrecca.