Richards Group Retains Home Depot's Creative Business

Media Is Next in Retailer's Ongoing Procurement Review of $600 Million Account

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NEW YORK ( -- Independent agency Richards Group has successfully defended the creative portion of longtime client Home Depot's $600 million marketing account after a review.

Along with Richards, the contenders in the final round included WPP Group's JWT; Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill Holliday; and Omnicom Group's GSD&M Idea City, according to executives familiar with the matter.

"I am pleased to announce that we have selected the Richards Group, our agency of record for over 15 years, to continue in this role. We look forward to building on this relationship in the future," said Home Depot's senior VP-chief marketing officer, Frank Bifulco.

Home Depot is the agency's largest client, accounting for some 10% of the shop's total revenue. Richards this week also picked up the Farmers Insurance Group marketing account.

The Atlanta-based home-improvement retailer launched the search in July as part of a newly adopted procurement process that mandates a periodic review of all of the company's ad and marketing-services agencies.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Select Resources International led the search. Reviews are expected to take place well into next year.

A media review is up next, the marketer said. Interpublic's Initiative has been Home Depot's media agency since 1992.

In 2007, Home Depot spent a whopping $577 million on domestic measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence, and a total of $383 million in the first nine months of this year. Home Depot operates more than 2,000 stores in 50 states, as well as in Canada, Mexico, China and elsewhere.

In April, Home Depot installed Mr. Bifulco following a six-month search for a marketing chief. That capped a tumultuous three years in the marketing suite in which three CMOs departed.

The home-improvement category has been particularly hard hit by the mortgage crisis and the recession. Earnings declined 31% to $756 million during the third quarter, while sales at stores open a least a year dipped 8%. The company is forecasting total sales for the full year could be down as much as 8%.

In an effort to pick up share from Lowe's and Walmart in the category, Home Depot in September began slashing prices between 5% and 50% on some 1,200 items. The company introduced a national advertising campaign touting "guaranteed low prices, even lower," to promote the new strategy.

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Contributing: Michael Bush

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