AGENCIES INCLUDE: Publicis-backed Burrell Communications, Chicago. WPP's Bravo Group, Grey Worldwide, Kang & Lee and MediaCom, N.Y.; Y&R, Chicago; Wing Latino; N.Y.; MindShare Worldwide, N.Y., Chicago.
POWER PLAY: Financier Eddie Lampert, 43-frustrated with lackluster results in merging the combined $55 billion retail businesses of Sears and Kmart-made a power grab last month, wresting the reins of marketing and merchandising away from the top brass. He's demoted CEO Alan Lacy, replacing him with handpicked favorite Aylwin Lewis. And Mr. Lampert recently personally directed the consolidation of Sears' $640 million ad account with Y&R Advertising, ending WPP sibling's Ogilvy & Mather's 43-year relationship with Sears. Industry watchers have lambasted Mr. Lampert's meddling, characterizing him as a "control freak" who needs to leave the job to marketing professionals, though some argue that the company's marketing bench isn't deep enough. But the raw materials are there for a reinvention.
DOWNSIDE: Post-merger, neither Sears nor Kmart has hit the right tone yet with consumers. With Mr. Lampert's heavy hand, will Y&R be faced with a fickle client and fail to push through that great branding and marketing idea the retail behemoth needs now more than ever? Clearly, finding the right positioning with consumers is going to take a stroke of genius, though some analysts say the answer is staring Sears right in the face: Own the home. But with a myriad of store formats, focus is a necessity.