Safeco Abruptly Drops WongDoody

WongDoody has lost the Safeco account less than a year after beating Seattle rival Cole & Weber in a shootout.

WongDoody, which landed the estimated $7 million creative and media account following an open review last April, was blindsided by the client’s decision.

“Safeco told us they were going to terminate the relationship, and they told us it was for creative differences. It was really a complete surprise to us,” said agency president Pat Doody. “In our opinion, it was amazingly early in the game to have creative differences.”

Representatives at the insurance and financial services company did not return calls seeking comment.

Some sources confirmed that creative differences were the problem; others said the decision had more to do with top-level management changes at Safeco—in particular, the arrival of Mike McGavick as president and CEO in early January.

One source familiar with the account said there was a culture clash between the agency and the traditionally conservative client.

“They said they wanted wild and crazy because that’s what WongDoody does,” said one source. “But when they finally saw it, they said, ‘Oh, shit, we can’t do that. We’re an insurance company.’ ”

Doody said the client and agency completely hashed out their cul tural differences during the review process.

Safeco is not expected to go forth with a formal review, according to sources.

Before losing the business to WongDoody, Cole & Weber had handled it for 25 years.