Modernista Scores Spot on Sears' Agency Roster

Shop Will Handle Initiative Related to Retailer's Fitness Biz

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NEW YORK ( -- Boston-based independent Modernista has gotten a boost by landing a spot on retailer Sears' roster to handle a digital initiative that will break next month.

"Sears has recently engaged Modernista," a Sears spokesman confirmed, but declined to elaborate beyond describing the marketing assignment as pertaining to the company's fitness business. Gary Koepke, co-founder and executive creative director at the agency, said the shop is creating an online fitness community for trainers and consumers, with content and tools to share and use together to promote better health and weight loss.

The site is expected to go live before the holidays, with links directly to Sears' e-commerce site, banner advertising and other promotions to drive visits.

For Modernista -- which has gone through a tough period from the shuttering of its Amsterdam office to its parting of ways with client Palm to the loss of its huge Cadillac account (which has since moved again, to Fallon) -- the Sears relationship, which it scored after a pitch, is some evidence that the shop is bouncing back.

It recently appointed a management team that includes recruits from R/GA and DDB, London, Matt Howell and Alex Hesz, respectively.

Sears Holdings Corp. ranked as the 12th-largest national advertiser in 2009, according to Ad Age's DataCenter. It had a domestic ad budget of $1.7 billion, doled out across its megabrands like Kmart, Craftsman and Kenmore. Spending for the Sears brand is the highest of them all, about $366 million, and much of it has historically been on newspaper, magazine, network and cable TV.

The Modernista assignment comes at a time when Sears Holdings appears to be intent on dialing up its digital presence. It has experimented with integrated content plays and digital assets, such as Good News Now, a Sears and AOL collaboration that delivers uplifting news, and, which houses profiles of Kmart designers. In August, the retailer also tapped David Friedman, who had been president-Americas at digital agency Razorfish as its head marketer. Both Sears' and Kmart's marketing teams report to him.

Retailers of all persuasions have been struggling, as consumers continue to keep a close eye on budgets. And Sears Holdings has been struggling more than most. During the second quarter, revenue fell $93 million to $10.5 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 2.2%, including a 1.4% decline at Kmart and a 2.8% drop at Sears' domestic locations.

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