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Efficiency Quest Behind Staples Review

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LOS ANGELES--A desire to secure more efficient buying is a key reason Staples is reviewing its estimated $50 million-plus media buying and planning account, sources said.

"Since the last time we had a review four years ago, the world of media has changed tremendously," Marci Grebstein, Staples vp of media and marketing communications, said last week. "It's time to take a look at the resources that are out there."

Sources said the incumbent, Pro Media of Natick, Mass., which is defending, may retain the account because it has a good rapport with Staples. The agency claimed $287 million in billings in 2000.

Conflict will keep many of the U.S.'s biggest media shops out of the hunt, sources said.

In a letter to agencies, the Framingham, Mass.-based client asked shops to cite account conflicts. What constitutes a conflicting account, sources said, was quite broad, and includes consumer-electronics retailers. That would eliminate Starcom, Chicago (Best Buy's media agency), and Carat, New York (Radio Shack). OMD's sister agency, BBDO in New York, handles Staples competitor and category leader Office Depot, while Initiative Media in Atlanta handles Home Depot.

This is the second time in five years Pro Media has had to fight to keep Staples. It survived a 1997 review that included co-finalists Botway Group, SFM Media and Grey, all in New York, and Western International Media in Los Angeles. Western and Botway are now Initiative. SFM is now Media Planning. MediaCom handles Grey's media.

The review is expected to take up to three months. Grebstein and evp/marketing Shira Goodman, who took over the top marketing job last May, will run the review.

Although Staples spent just under $115 million in measured media in 2000, according to CMR, more than half that was newspaper buys. Staples handles print in-house. The client's creative agency, Cliff Freeman and Partners, New York, is not affected by the media review.