Shootout: Sun retains JWT after $100M look

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Following a months-long agency shootout and full-court press that included an assist from WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell, Sun Microsystems decided to retain WPP's J. Walter Thompson Co. as agency on its $100 million global advertising account.

The contest had come down to JWT and Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis, with the latter producing a one-shot ad that ran in The Wall Street Journal last week.

Scott Kraft, VP-brand marketing at Sun, said JWT's new campaign will break later this or early next year and will emphasize "greater value, greater innovation and greater choice." The current tagline, "We make the net work," continues in the interim.

Sun was slipping away from JWT as media was consolidated at Bcom3 Group's Starcom Worldwide and interactive went to Grey Global Group's Beyond Interactive, San Francisco. For the crucial global-branding assignment, Mr. Kraft pitted JWT against Fallon and Leagas Delaney, San Francisco. Sun wanted "to get lots of points of view on this," Mr. Kraft said.

Throughout the process, Sun executives declined to acknowledge the review, which narrowed to JWT and Fallon. In its pitch, JWT touted its strategic insights.

JWT fought back in part by tapping its parent company and getting help from Mr. Sorrell. The agency also enlisted planning guru Jon Steel, formerly a partner at Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. "Martin himself will make sure resources are available to us," said Mr. Kraft, in a reference to Mr. Sorrell.

Mr. Steel, now a worldwide consultant to WPP, will continue to have a hand in the Sun business and will not work on competing clients such as IBM Corp. at sibling WPP shop Oglivy & Mather, said Bob Jeffrey, president of JWT North America.

Sun spent $49.6 million in measured media in the U.S. in 2000, $37.4 million in 2001, and $20.6 million in the first half of this year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

The marketer of high-end servers has slumped badly, losing share to Dell Computer Corp., IBM and arch rival Microsoft Corp.

Sun's stock has been troubled most of the year, closing at $2.88 on Sept. 20. Mr. Kraft acknowledged the tech business is in "rough waters" but said Sun has the cash to remain a strong player.

Long a mercurial client, Sun moved from JWT in the 1980s to Anderson & Lembke, since folded into Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide. In 1997, Sun bet on the Internet, dropping $100 million on a Hollywood-style campaign from Lowe Lintas & Partners, San Francisco, tagged "The dot in dot-com." In 2000, Sun consolidated at JWT's Tonic 360.

Retaining Sun was a huge reprieve for JWT, San Francisco.

contributing: tobi elkin

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