AARP quietly conducts creative review
AARP launched a creative review in January, before the coronavirus outbreak, Ad Age has learned.
According to people close to the business, finalists in the review were informed last month; among them are incumbent WPP's Grey, which has held the account for about eight years, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' The Martin Agency. Those people say that the review is being run internally.
Grey declined to comment. AARP and The Martin Agency did not immediately return requests for comment. It was not immediately clear what other agencies, if any, have made the finalist round.
AARP's total media spend in 2019 was $112 million, with $19 million spent on online advertising, according to estimates from COMvergence.
One person close to the matter says AARP has a "government-like tradition" of reviewing its creative business about every three years. The last time it was placed into review, in 2015, people close to the business say it was called off and Grey retained the business.
Grey also won AARP's social media account a year ago without a review. AARP's media is handled by WPP's MediaCom and is not up for review.
Under their nearly decade-long partnership, Grey has created works like the 2018 "Take on Today" multi-platform campaign that aimed to tell inspiring stories about what life can hold for people above the age of 50. In 2015, Grey leaned on millennial slang, like "OMG" and "Duh," for a series of ads highlighting stats at the time that showed people aged 50 years and older (the demographic served by the nonprofit) are responsible for 51 percent of consumer spending in the U.S.
The Martin Agency, meanwhile, picked up several new accounts last year including CarMax, Buffalo Wild Wings, DoorDash, Boston Beer Co.'s Twisted Tea and UPS. So far this year, the IPG shop also won Old Navy's creative business.
While advertising activity has been slowing (a recent IAB report found that nearly a quarter of media buyers and brands have canceled their ad spend for the second quarter), agency executives have been reporting that new business pitches haven't stopped.
Tom Denford, North America CEO of management consultancy ID Comms, said recently that most of the current ongoing pitches were launched in January and many others that were intended to kick off in the first quarter are being postponed to later in the year. Pitches that haven't been called off or postponed are being conducted remotely.
According to a recent ID Comms study, only 8 percent of agency leaders think pitches should be called off entirely until the pandemic is over, with 16 percent saying the pitch process has "to be totally rethought to work in the current climate." The study found that agency leaders are being more selective about what briefs they respond to right now.
"I think timelines will naturally slow but pitches can still move forward," one U.S. agency CEO responded in the ID Comms study. "Most likely pitch priorities will shift, and it will be important for prospects to see how nimble agencies are in maneuvering difficult situations such as these. I think consultants and prospects running their own pitches should leave options wide open for agencies to pose their own solutions to showcase their problem-solving skills."