Taps McCann - Staples' holiday wish list: Humor

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Staples wants its new ad agency to deliver its first campaign for the holidays, and retain the "easy" positioning and humor that have been its hallmarks.

The Framingham, Mass.-based office supplies retailer last week selected Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, New York, to handle its TV creative account. The first work will break in the fourth quarter.

That campaign will reposition Staples, but introduce a strong angle on the "easy" message, said Brett Gosper, general manager, McCann, New York. "There's a bit of confusion in the marketplace ... brands find it difficult to differentiate that their communications comes from them."

Staples dominates the office products retailing sector; according to a recent analysis by Credit Suisse First Boston. It had $7.8 billion in 2003 sales to Office Depot's $5.7 billion and OfficeMax's $4.7 billion. Staples also showed 9.4% sales growth, vs. 2.4% for OfficeMax and a drop of 2.7% at Office Depot. But OfficeMax was sold to paper company Boise Cascade last fall and hired Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago, to handle a revamped advertising effort. Analysts expect office-products retailers to benefit from the improvement in the economy and an upswing in corporate spending.

McCann presented several creative concepts during the review to show it could adapt and evolve as Staples' needs change. "We wanted to demonstrate there is depth within McCann," Mr. Gosper said.

It's too soon to say what the holiday campaign will look like, but Staples will keep its focus on small-business and home-office customers, said Judy Shapiro, senior VP-corporate branding and advertising.

Staples split in April with its agency of almost two years, Omnicom Group's Martin/Williams, Minneapolis. It broke its first campaign, with the tagline "That was easy," in early 2003, replacing Cliff Freeman & Partners' award-winning "Yeah, we got that" effort. Martin/Williams' last work for Staples breaks July 19, featuring a spot where rocker Alice Cooper makes fun of his hit "School's Out."

Humor Essential

"Humor is part of the DNA of the brand," said Mr. Gosper; the holiday campaign will continue that trend.

Select Resources International, Santa Monica, Calif., handled the review, which included WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, New York, and Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston. Publicis Groupe's Fallon, New York, dropped out this month.

Grey Global Group's MediaCom, New York, retains the media portion of the account; the print, interactive and direct marketing will remain in-house. Staples spent $56.6 million on TV advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

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