DuPont consolidates with Ogilvy

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For E.I. du Pont Nemours and Co., the news last month that it was consolidating its advertising with WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide carried more meaning than the typical agency review announcement.

The move, which pushed out McCann-Erickson Worldwide— the agency that created DuPont’s "The miracles of science" tagline, which will be retained— is more than the usual game of agency musical chairs. The selection of Ogilvy shows a DuPont that is aggressively changing its marketing game plan and, in doing so, is borrowing from the playbooks of two other multinational corporations, IBM Corp. and General Electric Co.

With its work for IBM, Ogilvy arguably created its most famous and effective creative since its legendary founder, David Ogilvy, was at the helm. Identifying the computer giant with the word "e-business," the agency helped IBM recast itself as a tech software and consulting company rather than simply a hardware manufacturer.

Scott Nelson, global manager for the DuPont brand, acknowledged that Ogilvy’s work for IBM influenced the agency’s selection. "Their previous experience in working with very large global brands in a decentralized organization was recognized," he said.

John Seifert, Ogilvy’s worldwide client services director, said that Ogilvy had evolved into an agency geared for clients like DuPont. "We have targeted complex, global-scale companies like DuPont," Seifert said. "Whether it’s IBM or Motorola or Cisco or Kodak or American Express, our business is largely defined by Fortune 500, global, complicated companies."

The case can also be made that DuPont decided to consolidate its business at a single agency because of a General Electric influence. Last year, DuPont hired John Campi, a former purchasing executive at GE Power Systems, as VP-global sourcing. Employing the Six Sigma approach to quality—a system favored by former GE chairman Jack Welch—Campi has acted to simplify DuPont’s purchasing in a range of areas, including marketing.

Online bid process

The agency review included a first-of-its-kind online bid process for the participating agencies to submit hourly rates. The online bid counted for 25% of the review process, and the low bidder didn’t win the account.

In the past, DuPont has employed scores of agencies, and DuPont sub-brands such as Corian, Teflon and Tyvek had their own marketing campaigns. DuPont is, in fact, revered in marketing circles for how it has used these sub-brands to market to consumers, creating demand through the b-to-b customers of DuPont.

But last year, DuPont reorganized its business into five "growth platforms"—electronic and communication technologies, performance materials, coatings and color technologies, safety and protection, and agriculture and nutrition. The company also operates DuPont Textiles & Interiors, a unit it intends to spin off by the end of the year.

With this restructuring effort and a new approach to purchasing, DuPont is poised to modify its traditional marketing methods. "Our communications efforts were considerably more fragmented than we’d like them to be," Nelson said. "People started asking the question, ‘If we did this in a more coordinated fashion, couldn’t we be more impactful?’ That was the underpinning of the agency review."

Ultimately, Nelson added, "our objective will be to allow each of those brands to thrive in a decentralized fashion but also to thrive in a way that builds equity in the DuPont brand."

Part of this approach will include running as much work as possible through Ogilvy and trimming many agencies that handled individual sub-brands. From brand strategy to TV spots and from Internet marketing to brochures, DuPont wants Ogilvy’s hands on the work.

"We’re challenging the conventional wisdom that a smaller agency is cheaper and more responsive," Nelson said.

To take on this challenge, Ogilvy is hiring staff and implementing logistical processes to handle the workload. For now, new work has taken a back seat.

Ogilvy doesn’t expect new DuPont creative to appear before late this year.

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