Macy’s Launches a Review of Its $500 Million U.S. Media Business

Incumbent Carat has been invited to pitch

BBDO New York won the creative business last year. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Retail giant Macy’s recently issued an RFI for its U.S. media planning and buying business, a spokesperson confirmed today.

“Macy’s is conducting a review of its media account currently handled by Carat as part of normal practice to review agencies after five years,” the representative said.

Joanne Davis Consulting is managing the review, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. The company deferred to Macy’s for comment.

This news comes months after the Cincinnati-based company, which is consistently one of the biggest advertisers in its sector, chose BBDO New York as creative agency of record following a closed pitch that included Ogilvy and Publicis.

Dentsu’s Carat has managed the media side of the business since beating out MEC, Starcom, Initiative and Razorfish in a 2012 review. “This is not triggered by dissatisfaction with Carat, a valued partner of Macy’s,” said the spokesperson; the company issued a similar statement when confirming the previous review.

A Carat spokesperson had not responded to a request for comment at the time this story was published, and it is unclear which other agencies have been invited to compete beyond the incumbent Carat.

Interestingly, Macy’s significantly reduced its paid media budget in the U.S last year. According to Kantar Media, the retail brand spent approximately $492 million in 2017, down from $681 million in 2016.

The company has moved to streamline operations and focus on lower-priced items since Toys ‘R’ Us veteran Richard Lennox became CMO in summer 2016. Sales rose in the fourth quarter of 2017 for the first time in three years, and CEO Jeff Gennette cited a “re-engineering of the Macy’s marketing machine” in announcing the news.

Other factors included a rise in online sales and the success of Macy’s Backstage, a series of discount store-within-a-store locations.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.