Lowe’s Names 3 New Creative Agency Partners in Unique Regional Realignment

Chain used a remote 'smart home' lockbox for surprise announcement

The account had been with BBDO. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Lowe’s has announced its new creative agency roster after ending a 12-year relationship with BBDO and abandoning the agency of record model.

As Adweek’s AgencySpy reported in January, the three agencies are located in very distinct regions of the country: Conill in Los Angeles, The VIA Agency of Maine and South Carolina’s EP+Co.

The unique structure is part of an effort by Lowe’s to target customers whose relationships with their homes are as different as the places they live. The three agencies will work on a combination project and fixed microretainer model, meaning there is no designated lead on any particular effort.

“Diversity of thought, agility and speed drove the agency change,” said Jocelyn Wong, who was promoted to CMO last January in the middle of a media review. “We took the opportunity to decouple production from creative while developing greater in-house capabilities.”

The chain also chose an interesting way to alert the winners.

“One of our partners built a cargo box outfitted with smart home tech [and] had one of our teammates go to each of the agencies this morning in a red Lowe’s vest,” said Derrick Wood, Lowe’s vp of brand, content and advertising. But the boxes had no handles or latches, and the only way agencies could get into them was through a doorbell that let executives in the company’s Mooresville, N.C. headquarters open the box remotely.

This demonstration, which also included a bottle of champagne and a Roomba to “clean up the mess” in each office, was directly tied to an RFI that required competing agencies to apply smart home technology to the brand’s ongoing “Moments” campaign.

“Geography is crucial, [as is] having an agency with a sensibility to what’s happening in their region and a sense of helping people love where they live,” said Wood in respect to the regional orientation of the company’s new partners. “Everyone got the same brief and pitch. … [It] worked perfectly for us in that the final and best three [competitors] were in different parts of the country.”

Lowe’s also made a point of choosing three small to midsize shops, which generally charge lower rates than big name agencies like BBDO. This, in combination with the decision to move more production work in-house, hints at the company’s efforts to streamline its marketing budget after conducting an internal audit.

BBDO’s more recent work had also focused on lower-cost social media hacks like a collection of rapid-fire Instagram Stories and the “Fix in Six” campaign using now-defunct looping platform Vine.

“We have been shifting toward digital more aggressively during the past year because that’s what the customer demands, but mass channels like TV, radio and print are still very important,” said Wong, who noted her confidence in the “Moments” work.

“Lowe’s has an incredibly rich story to bring to life,” said CEO Leeann Leahy of The VIA Agency. “When you combine that story with their commitment to a forward-looking agency model it makes them an ideal partner.”

EP+Co. president and chief creative officer Con Williamson added, “This pitch was not a pitch, it was a labor of love. We’re an agency of people who escaped the traditional agency life in search of a home, with yards (and projects). We could not be more excited about this partnership, not only with an amazing brand, but with a small collective of smart agencies who think like we do, and share a common belief in loving where you live.”

According to the Lowe’s team, the effects of this new agency model should be visible by the year’s second quarter. Kantar Media has the chain spending nearly $400 million on paid media in 2016 and $260 million in the first nine months of 2017.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.