Retrieves Discarded Tagline; Concentrates Focus on Business Customers

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NEW YORK ( -- Looking to its future with a return to the past, Office Depot is resurrecting the "Taking Care of Business" tagline that helped it grow from a small chain to the No. 2 office products retailer.
Office Depot's new ads are tightly aimed at business professionals.

The move is part of an effort to concentrate on its business customers and catch category leader Staples.

Nascar deal
The Delray Beach, Fla.-based company said it is rolling out the new old slogan in an advertising blitz beginning today and in a new sponsorship deal with Nascar.

The decision to go retro with a line it has twice ditched was prompted by research that demonstrated the equity in the old slogan, which was created -- or lifted from the title of Bachman-Turner Overdrive's classic-rock staple -- more than a decade ago by a former ad agency.

"Marketing executives get tired of taglines and positionings much faster than customers do," said Tony Ueber, vice president of marketing strategy and decision support for Office Depot. "If you've got a tremendous amount of equity in a positioning, if it tells your customers and employees what you do, why would you move away from it? Why would you not continue to beat that drum and maintain that positioning?"

Business customer focus
The ad strategy is part of a new direction undertaken last year by the marketer, which is now focusing more on the business customers responsible for more than 80% of its sales. "We certainly welcome the individual consumer and there will be certain times of year that are more natural for the individual consumer," said Chuck Rubin, executive vice president and chief merchandising/marketing officer. "We think that the focus of our resource allocation needs to be squarely on that business customer."

The new TV spots, developed by Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, depict the role of office supplies in the evolution from idea to execution for two small businesses, an architect and a decorator. In the past, Office Depot, like its competition, had relied more on humor. For instance, a 2003 spot -- under the tagline "What you need. What you need to know" -- was a parody of reality TV makeover shows. The marketer is now more concerned with getting out messages about what its shelves have to offer.

"We're moving away from humor into more clear insights about our target customer," Mr. Ueber said.

CEO search continues
The change comes at an important time in the life of the company as it struggles to keep pace with Staples after four years of slumping same-store sales. In October, with market share and profit margins shrinking, Office Depot's chairman-CEO, Bruce Nelson, stepped down. Now led by director Neil Austrian, the company is still searching for a permanent CEO. Nonetheless, its marketing executives are bullish about its outlook, citing three consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales growth. And they are anticipating another when it releases its fourth quarter 2004 results.

Though he would not give specific dollar figures, Mr. Ueber said the budget for the ad campaign and Nascar sponsorship represents an "increase from historical spending." Office Depot spent $88 million in measured media in 2003 and $42 million over the first half of last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Tagline with a history
The executives expressed no reservations about adding another chapter to Office Depot's on-again, off-again affair with the "Taking Care of Business" tagline, which has caused some teeth-gnashing with the marketer's agencies. It was created in 1992 by Gold Coast Advertising, a Miami-based independent that's now defunct. Seven years later, Office Depot split with independent DeVito/Verdi, after it opted not to participate in a revival of the tagline, and returned the account to Gold Coast. BBDO has had the business since 2001.

"We don't' view this as going backward by any means," Mr. Rubin said. "We view this as a giant step forward."

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