USAA Taps MullenLowe After Parting Ways With Campbell-Ewald

Marketer Will Continue with Holding Company Request For Information

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MullenLowe has picked up the USAA account, a move that comes after the insurance and financial company parted ways with Campbell-Ewald because of a scandal related to a racist memo.

Mullen Lowe and Campbell-Ewald are both part of Interpublic, and after USAA dropped Campbell-Ewald, IPG said in a statement in late January that it planned "to transition our USAA team into a standalone, purpose-built entity over the next few months."

But a standalone agency was not to be. Said USAA in a statement today: "USAA is in the process of transitioning its advertising business to MullenLowe U.S.... Following the transition, MullenLowe will be responsible for strategic and creative leadership on USAA brand and product advertising across the company's multiple business lines. MullenLowe will service the USAA business from an office in San Antonio with additional support provided from the agency's offices in Boston, Mass. and Winston-Salem, N.C."

MullenLowe declined to comment and referred calls to USAA.

Despite assigning creative to MullenLowe, the company is still pursuing a request for information it issued to holding companies in January. The scope of the RFI includes media. A spokesman for the company said that the process is still ongoing, and declined to comment on when it would be completed.

IPG did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When IPG said it would create a standalone entity in January, USAA said it had not signed an agreement with IPG regarding the work terminated with Campbell Ewald and said it was working with IPG on a transition plan as it searches for a new agency.

IPG's Initiative is the media agency on the account.

Campbell-Ewald was removed from USAA's roster the same day that news emerged that IPG had fired CEO Jim Palmer. He was let go after news surfaced that a creative director in the agency's San Antonio office sent a racist memo to other employees.

The memo was sent to staff late last year notifying them of "Ghetto Day in the SA," according to a copy that appeared on AgencySpy. The memo, which included a photo of two African-American men, promoted "ghetto music, malt 45's and ghetto terminology," as well as legal drugs and prostitution for the day.

Mr. Palmer reportedly didn't immediately terminate the creative director who had sent it out and didn't tell the leadership team at IPG. When IPG found out in January, the creative director who issued the memo was immediately terminated.

USAA spent about $135 million on U.S. measured media in 2015, according to Kantar Media, down from $139.3 million in 2014.

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