Best Buy Taps CHI & Partners, Wunderman

Arrangement Covers Digital, Social-Media Programs; Gives Retailer Access to Other WPP Shops

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Best Buy has added CHI & Partners and Wunderman to its roster of lead agencies.

As part of the hire, Best Buy wants to harness the resources of both CHI and Wunderman -- and potentially other resources from around the holding-company network -- under a single entity that it plans to call CHI/Wunderman, the retailer told Ad Age . The group is expected to hire some 100 people globally and won't be unlike the teams created at WPP to handle auto accounts for Ford, Mazda and the latest, Team Lincoln. The new group will be responsible for the development and production of digital and social-media programs, as well as weekly promotional vehicles and Best Buy business unit campaigns, according to the retailer.

Best Buy's other lead agencies include Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Razorfish and Starcom.

The selection follows an extensive agency review that kicked off more than six months ago. Several agency executives who were close to the pitch told Ad Age it was a confusing process, one that was handled by Best Buy and included the procurement department. A copy of the request for proposal that the retailer circulated to agencies showed that Best Buy was seeking ideas for a range of marketing channels, including digital marketing, social media, broadcast and print.

Drew Panayiotou
Drew Panayiotou
Drew Panayiotou, senior VP-U.S. marketing for Best Buy, admitted the pitch was somewhat convoluted, with fits and starts along the way. "It's not the same RFP we started out with," Mr. Panayiotou said. "As you get into these things, you have a hope of what you'll find out in the marketplace, and literally, what we were looking for didn't really exist. This relationship with WPP represents an evolution of the RFP and the creation of something new."

No one agency seemed to have all the capabilities the retailer was looking for, Mr. Panayiotou said, adding that he also has an eye on platforms and technologies that are developing. "Being locked into scopes of work that exist today and may radically change in 24 to 36 months doesn't make sense, but that 's the traditional client-agency model," he said.

That led to the arrangement with WPP, which will give the retailer the ability to use other agencies within the holding company. "It gives us a way to transform and evolve the work and leverage the best of WPP," Mr. Panayiotou said, citing boutique shops such as Blast Radius, Design Kitchen and Zaaz. When the pitch began in May, Crispin said it hoped to nab more business. That didn't happen, but the relationship between the MDC Partners shop and Best Buy remains solid. The agency is working on the retailer's Super Bowl spot.

Best Buy has purchased one 30-second spot in the game, marking the second time in its 45-year history that it will advertise during the Super Bowl. Best Buy made its Super Bowl debut during the 2011 game, when it announced its Buy Back Program in a spot that featured Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber. CMO Barry Judge said the retailer has plans to focus on a launch during this year's spot as well. And Mr. Panayiotou hinted that a new brand positioning and tagline are also in the works.

Best Buy ranks as the 56th-largest advertiser, with $666.5 million in U.S. ad spending, including both measured and unmeasured media, according to Ad Age 's Datacenter.

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