SAN FRANCISCO - Tony Houghton is about to face his first contest since becoming president of Hal Riney & Partners in January as the review for the $20-million Sears, Roebuck & Co. apparel ad account gets underway.
The review could be a much needed boost for the S.F. office, which had a string of disappointments last year. Though Riney won the $10-million The Good Guys account at the end of the year and has picked up some smaller pieces of business, the agency failed to bring home either the Mastercard or Compaq accounts. And the Ross Perot presidential campaign was yanked out from under the shop at the eleventh hour when Perot reportedly decided Riney's ad plan was too expensive.
Houghton declined to comment about the review, citing a confidentiality agreement with Sears. But he did say that S.F. would bear full responsibility for the pitch. 'Hal Riney San Francisco is pitching this business,' Houghton said.
Riney is the only S.F. agency in the pitch, which includes Saatchi & Saatchi, Wells Rich Greene BDDP and Young & Rubicam, all N.Y., and incumbent Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago, pitching with its N.Y. office. DDB Needham, out of N.Y. and Chicago, pulled out last week.
Riney's S.F. focus may in part be due to the media buying expertise based there and the retail experience the office acquired handling Saturn. Not to be overlooked is that this town is Hal Riney's home base, and he's likely to take a personal role in the pitch. Riney did participate in a briefing Sears held for the contenders last week.
But those who expect that Riney's trademark Middle America style placed the agency in the running may be misinterpreting Sears and its direction. With the addition of outsiders like Arthur Martinez, president of the merchandise group who joined from Saks Fifth Avenue, it's likely Sears is poised for a different strategy.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)