Zappos Assigns Creative Biz to Mullen

Interpublic Group’s Mullen in Boston has won the high-profile Zappos creative business following a review. Agency executives confirmed the selection late Thursday.

About a month ago, the online footwear and apparel retailer had identified Mullen, IPG’s Draftfcb in San Francisco and WPP Group-backed CHI & Partners in New York as finalists for the assignment. The Ad Store in New York was the incumbent.

“This is important because Zappos is a highly visible brand, we’ll get to do work for a company that values great creative and it’s always good to beat 100 agencies in a pitch,” said Mullen chief creative officer Edward Boches.

Agency interest in Zappos’ account far outstripped the company’s $7 million projected annual budget for marketing. More than 100 agencies replied to Zappos’ initial request for proposals, despite the RFP’s unusual request for creative work up front.

While many submitters privately grumbled, one that failed to advance to the presentation round — Ignited in El Segundo, Calif. — went to its blog to say that the process exemplified all that is broken in the account review process.

In the midst of the Zappos review in July, Amazon.com agreed to buy the firm in a deal valued at approximately $850 million. Amazon in August chose WPP’s Berlin Cameron United in New York as its lead agency in a separate review.

The win is Mullen’s biggest in some time. It had struggled of late, losing some key accounts (Orbitz creative being the most notable) and enduring several rounds of layoffs.

Zappos helps turn the tide because, “Every new win is important. It adds to momentum and visibility. This is a business of momentum,” Boches said.

He shrugged off notions of a slump, noting new-business gains. “We’ve won a number of pitches this summer,” said Boches. “This is just the biggest and most visible.”

Other recent additions include the Boston Bruins for advertising, as well as Ernst & Young and Nutrisystem for direct response. Stanley, Panera Bread and Olympus, already Mullen clients, expanded their business with the shop to include social-media chores.

This also marks the first win for Mullen since its June hire of former Fallon exec Alex Leikikh as managing partner and director of account service. He played a key role in guiding the Mullen team to victory in the Zappos pitch.

Leikikh said the score “reinforces our focus on the creative product, represents the first win for a new team brought in to evolve the agency…and allows us to partner with the most visionary culture-driven company on the planet.”

Along with Leikikh, that next-generation team at Mullen includes ecd Mark Wenneker, brand planning chief Stephen Hahn-Griffiths and svp, brand evangelist Stephen Larkin.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is regarded as an especially skilled marketer in terms of leveraging both corporate culture and social media to develop a lauded brand. Mullen is now tasked with communicating the fact that Zappos sells more than just shoes. The agency’s first work for the client will likely break by the second quarter of next year.

Nielsen Business Media