Doner nabs $100 mil May media account

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A hotly contested and protracted review for the consolidated media buying and planning account of May Department Stores Co. finally ended last week. After 120 days, the estimated $100 million prize went to Doner, Southfield, Mich.

In the review, Doner faced two tag teams that paired global media independents with local May roster agencies. Carat North America partnered with Glennon Co. in St. Louis, which handled $10 million in spending for the Famous-Barr division of stores. CIA Medianetwork teamed with Janik & Associates, Los Angeles, which handled the bulk of May's media account -- approximately $56 million -- for almost seven years.

Ward Communications, Dallas, handled media for the Foley's chain, an account estimated to be worth approximately $20 million. All those accounts will now be consolidated at Doner.


The Michigan shop does creative work for all May chains, except Lord & Taylor; and this appeared to give the agency the edge.

However, an executive close to the review said the key to the agency's success was Fred Sattler, Doner's new executive director of media. Mr. Sattler, 43, previously was the director of media strategy and managing partner at TBWA/Chiat/Day in San Francisco, where he handled the Levi Strauss & Co. media account.

He moved to Doner in September, taking a newly created position within a very low-profile media operation. His assignment was to consolidate the agency's media services within agency headquarters, instead of letting regional Doner offices handle media buying and planning.

Another executive close to the review said the May brief initially called for media consolidation ideas; but as time went on, it became clear the consolidation really was about merging the media account with the creative business. Meanwhile, some observers opined that the May review appears to go against the trend of clients with large media budgets awarding their business to large stand-alone media specialists.


"If the client was for example, Kraft, then yes, it could be seen as a reversal," said an executive who requested anonymity. "But this isn't exactly the most media savvy operation going. The media specialist argument plays better with the more sophisticated client. This is retail. These guys could change their mind again in six months."

May has traditionally run advertising for its eight retail chains under 12 trade names through local TV buys in 107 markets. The tandem media teams were proposing to do the local buying out of offices in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and New York, and through local offices that they would open to service the account. Doner is expected to run media buying and planning through its central office.


"We pitched hard and we pitched often," said Glenn Jamboretz, CEO of Glennon, St. Louis. "The only regret I have is they took 120 days to make a decision. During that time you have a lot of anxiety building in your staff. But that was nothing that we could control, and they felt a bit strapped in coming to a decision, too. They regretted having to go that long. . . . Will this be without casualties? I doubt it. It's hard to face something like this."

Mr. Jamboretz said that this was the sixth client "to consolidate on us" in the last two years. May asked his agency to continue working on the account through the end of September. "There is so much maintenance on their buys," said Mr. Jamboretz, who was not sure if they would continue.

CIA Medianetwork was expected to acquire the Janik Co. had they won the May review. "That will still happen irrespective of [May] deal," said Dick Janik, president of Janik & Associates. "It would have been nicer if this deal had happened, too." Janik handles media for Hecht's, Robinsons-May, Meier & Frank and Filene's. The agency claims approximately $100 million in billings.

Despite a rise in earnings late last year, May has seen very sluggish sales, with same-store sales dropping in the fourth quarter by 2%. Analysts say that May has been steadily losing market share to Kohl's, Old Navy, Talbots and Target Stores.

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