Best Buy Looks Outside for $200 Million Account

Crispin, Fallon, GSD&M, Chiat/Day in Running

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COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- After nearly 20 years of handling advertising in-house, Best Buy, the nation's largest electronics retailer, has thrown its estimated $170 million to $200 million brand-advertising account into review.

The move comes as the marketer tries to be more "nimble." "The goal is to continue to grow," said Lisa Hawks, a spokeswoman for the retailer. "We are a $32 billion company, and the question is: How can we be flexible and nimble inside the marketing department and continue on that growth path?"

Asked to participate in the review are: Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami; Fallon, Minneapolis; Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas; and Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day.

Crispin may have the inside track. It won the chain's $25 million Geek Squad account last year and is the only agency on the retailer's existing roster tapped for the review. Geek Squad is not part of the review.

The work will include account planning, ad strategy and execution, and media and consumer-connection planning and will not impact the retailer's existing agency roster, according to a statement from the company.

Whether the review marks the beginning of a dismantling of the in-house group, Best Buy Advertising, remains to be seen.

BBA, with a staff that numbers in the hundreds, is headed by marketing veteran Ruby Anik, senior VP-marketing communications, who reports directly to Barry Judge, senior VP-marketing. Ms. Anik is leading the review, which is being managed by Select Resources International. In August 2006, longtime Chief Marketing Officer Michael Linton left the company. The chain has not replaced Mr. Linton, and there is no ongoing search for his replacement. The top marketing post is held by Mr. Judge.

Asked about changes to BBA, Ms. Hawks emphasized the group has "core competencies" that cannot be duplicated. BBA will continue to handle the chain's weekly insert program and other specialized marketing areas, including Hispanic marketing, direct marketing and loyalty programs. Miami-based La Comunidad handles Hispanic marketing, and Avenue A/ Razorfish handles interactive duties at Rapp Collins conducts marketing research, and Ketchum takes care of public-relations duties.

But the review does throw into question whether Starcom will hang on to the media-buying portion of the account. "The intention is to continue to work with the Starcom folks," Ms. Hawks said. "We are planning on continuing to work with them for right now."

The retailer launched a review for Best Buy for Business in December 2006 but has yet to name an agency, and has instead been using a local Minneapolis firm. Ms. Hawks said the review will not involve this line of business.
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