Sun Shops Creative Project

SAN FRANCISCO — Sun Microsystems, which this year has moved two pieces of its ad account out of incumbent JWT & Tonic here, is contacting agencies about a global creative assignment, sources said.

The search comes amid mounting speculation that the Santa Clara, Calif., computer-server company’s entire $100 million global business could follow.

Sun has contacted Fallon in Minneapolis, Leagas Delaney in San Francisco, incumbent JWT & Tonic in San Francisco and possibly others. The assignment is not tied to specific products or initiatives, but is for “a big [global] branding campaign” that includes TV, print and radio, sources said.

Agencies are interested because the winner would get a foot in the door at Sun and be well-positioned should Sun decide to shift the entire account.

“For months we’ve been hearing that Sun was not happy with what [Tonic] was doing and they were going to lose the whole thing,” said one executive. “It’s like slow torture.”

Neither Sun marketing executive Scott Kraft nor Karen Armstrong, who was instrumental in Sun’s recently completed media review, were available for comment.

Sources said the creative search also was prompted by the retirement of president and COO Ed Zander on July 1. Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy has taken Zander’s duties and the president title.

JWT & Tonic has been slowly losing its grip on the account for the past six months. In February, it lost print planning and buying duties when Sun awarded its global media account to Starcom in Chicago. (Initiative Media was the incumbent.) In June, the agency, which handled interactive, was eliminated from Sun’s digital review. Last week, Sun awarded Beyond Interactive in San Francisco the interactive account pending negotiations, according to a company representative.

In April, JWT & Tonic launched its latest campaign under a new tagline, “We make the net work,” which replaced 2001’s “Take it to the nth.”

The shops declined comment. While JWT & Tonic has recently picked up accounts such as Wingcast and made the finals of the $50 million Cisco review, the office primarily exists to service Sun.

Sun spends $100 million globally on advertising, according to CMR.