Talk about a lengthy process. Sun Life Financial's advertising review began in the spring, shifted to agency presentations this summer and now has finally ended, with the selection of Doremus.
The New York shop will handle both creative and media responsibilities for Sun Life, which is based in Wellesley Hills, Mass. The new agency succeeds The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., which had handled the business since 2009 and did not defend.
In making the hire, Roberta Ruel, Sun Life's assistant vp of brand and creative marketing, cited Doremus' business-to-business marketing experience, particularly in the insurance and financial sectors. That expertise is particularly important as Sun Life shifts its marketing focus from name awareness to engaging employee benefits brokers and the human resources leaders.
Ruel also mentioned the thoughtfulness of Doremus' executives. "We had great chemistry and they developed an overarching strategy for us and a solid creative execution to align with that strategy," she added.
As for the length of the search, Ruel explained that it enabled Sun Life executives to get a feel for how the agency leaders operated as well as their ideas. "We wanted to make sure we understood how they approached the projects and the assignments," she said. "You know, we're looking for a long-term partner versus [just] a creative execution."
Sources previously identified the other contenders  as Connelly Partners and Allen & Gerritsen, both of which are based in Boston. Ark Advisors in New York managed the process.
Sun Life's media spending totaled nearly $10 million last year, down from about $14 million in 2010, according to Nielsen. Those figures don't include online spending.
Doremus' first campaign is expected to break in the first quarter of next year and is likely to incorporate elements of the agency's winning pitch, Doremus worldwide president Howard Sherman said. The agency's New York managing director, Allison Womack, will manage the account.
Other Doremus accounts include Knight Capital Group, Morgan Stanley, Sandler O'Neill + Partners and Thomson Reuters.