Consolidates $640 Million Ad Account With Y&R

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COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- Sears, Roebuck & Co. is ending its 43-year relationship with Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide to consolidate its $640 million advertising account with Young & Rubicam by Oct. 1, according to the company.
Photo: AP
Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert called for the review that ultimately ended the company's 43-year relationship with Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

Both agencies are part of advertising holding company WPP Group and have worked jointly on the account since 1993. Media planning and buying will remain at sibling MindShare, a Sears spokesperson said.

Ogilvy has managed the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands and Y&R spearheaded major store branding since the 1993 launch of the “Softer Side of Sears.”

Month-long review
Speculation has run high about the fate of both Chicago offices as a result of the monthlong review requested by Sears Holding Corp. Chairman Eddie Lampert. Last year, Sears spent about $640 million on advertising, split between Y&R and Ogilvy. In April, Sears slashed its fees paid to both Ogilvy and Y&R. The 180-employee office of Ogilvy cut 12 employees the following month.

"The single-mindedness with which we are pursuing our goal of restoring Sears to preeminence requires a similar focus in our agency partnerships," Luis Padilla, president of merchandising and marketing for Sears Retail, said in a company statement.

“It’s my 10-year pitch,” Kary McIlwain, managing partner of Y&R, Chicago, said of the non-traditional review. “I don’t think there was one event. We won this over time.”

'Wasn't about money'
Despite talk that the review was spurred by Lampert's desire to cut costs, Ms. McIlwain said, “This wasn’t about money.”

When asked whether the agency would recruit staff from Ogilvy for the assignment, she said, “We’re in the process of figuring out staffing needs and we would obviously consider first and foremost people with experience.”

Sears has been Y&R's biggest account (with the next largest being Miller Brewing Co.). In 1996, after managing the Sears account between its Chicago and New York offices, Y&R consolidated the retailer’s work in Chicago. The most notable Y&R campaign was the “Softer Side of Sears,” which ran from late 1993 until 2000. In 2001, Y&R also launched the short-lived “Sears, Where Else?” campaign. Since 2001, the campaign focus has been on “Good Life, Great Price.”

'Big branding ideas'
“It’s been more “promotional in nature vs. a big branding idea recently,” Ms. McIlwain said. Among the first creative products to come out of the consolidated agency is a “great” holiday idea, she added.

“You’re going to see a smarter Sears going to market,” she said, noting the retailer will measure advertising results more and be more flexible about ideas. “It’s a new Sears with totally new management, so together we’re going to figure out new ways of working. We’re going to ‘do, test, revise.’ There won’t be fear of doing, rather than ‘Let’s think a lot.’”

Ms. McIlwain led a team including Stephanie Kugelman, Y&R vice chairman and chief strategic officer, and Mark Figliulo, Y&R Chicago’s chief creative officer. She said she tapped the entire agency network and presented a single team solution rather than a multitude of plans from the ad agency, the Hispanic agency, and the promotion agency.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. merged with Kmart Holding Corp. earlier this year to create Sears Holding Corp.

The consolidation of agencies may eventually impact Kmart, especially as brands -- Kenmore, DieHard and Craftsman -- are being rolled out in Kmart stores and the merged Sears Essentials format. Kmart spent about $175 million in measured media annually; its agency was Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, now part of WPP.

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