Sprint and Goodby Are Going Separate Ways

Telecom Takes Account to Publicis Groupe

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Telecom giant Sprint is severing ties with its creative agency since 2007, Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Moving forward, Digitas will serve as the new primary agency for the Sprint brand, managing brand strategy, advertising, digital, offline media, digital buying and analytics.

As part of the move, Publicis is creating a new dedicated unit, dubbed Team Sprint, to run the Sprint account. It will be led by Digitas President Tony Weisman. Although the digital agency will be leading the account, creative network Leo Burnett will also be part of Team Sprint. The massive agency shift is interesting in part because it appears to have taken place without a review, and because it means Publicis Groupe agencies now handle creative work for two top mobile brands, as T-Mobile is handled by Publicis, the agency.

Said Bill Malloy, Sprint's CMO, in a statement: "We are focused on continuing to build the Sprint brand, bringing value and simplicity to customers across all segments. Team Sprint, a brand-dedicated agency ecosystem, provides an integrated, collaborative environment where the focus is on consumer needs, today and in the future."

The news is a not-so-welcome holiday surprise for Goodby. The Omnicom Group agency was notified by Sprint this morning -- just hours before Sprint announced its plans to work with Publicis Groupe . According to agency co-founder Jeff Goodby, the shop wasn't expecting it.

"They just want to go in a different direction," Mr. Goodby told Ad Age . "The company really transformed while we were there, in a positive way, to the point where other companies want to acquire them. We were doing a great job for them, and hopefully they will find someone else who will do a great job for them," he said, noting that the agency is particularly proud of the "Now Network" work it has done for the company, which a couple of years ago netted the shop an integrated gold award at Cannes.

Perhaps most noteworthy in recent times was the "Plug Into Now" work, an early and smart use of data visualization in advertising, that allowed users to monitor various data feeds and stats in real time.

Goodby was tapped by Sprint to handle national marketing needs in March 2007. At the time, the company's then-CMO, Mark Schweitzer, called the agency's "sterling reputation and creative talents second to none" and lauded the shop's "combination of strategic strength, breakthrough creative execution and outstanding new-media integration."

Asked whether the loss of Sprint could mean year-end layoffs, Mr. Goodby said the plan was to do everything possible to avoid them. "We try to find places for everybody, and we have new business in the hopper, and hopefully that will minimize the impact," he said. "We're available for telecom business."

Contributing: Kunur Patel, Ann Christine Diaz

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