Havas Wins Kmart, Publicis Wins Sears, FCB Announces Loss in Internal Memo

By Patrick Coffee 

Oh hey, remember when we said Havas had won the Sears Holdings review? It has come to pass. So we got that part right, though we didn’t account for the fact that Publicis Groupe would be the review’s other big winner.

Havas and Publicis did indeed defeat FCB to win the Kmart and Sears accounts, respectively–they just didn’t do it officially back in May. As a reminder, this review launched well over nine months ago, though the client didn’t send out its RFP until early 2015.

Moving forward, Publicis’ New York office (RIP, Publicis Kaplan Thaler) and DigitasLBi in Chicago will handle creative/digital on Sears while Havas alone will run Kmart. Havas will also retain all of the Sears Holdings business it already had, including the in-house Diehard, Kenmore and Craftsman brands as well as “mass media assignments.”


In a further twist of the knife, FCB will create Kmart’s campaigns for the coming holiday season before ending its relationship with the client. But the brilliance of “Ship My Pants”–which still makes us laugh like the idiots we are–was not enough to save the account for FCB Chicago.

You may recall that Sears’ former AOR, Dentsu’s mcgarrybowen, dropped out of the review early in the process after Sears EVP Imran Jooma left the company. mcgarrybowen also reportedly had concerns about spending more to compete after its contract expired.

Here’s the internal memo from CCO Todd Tilford and CEO Michael Fassnacht (note the 2 percent number and the “more fiscally healthy retailer” burn):

Moving On

We’ve just received a call letting us know that the Kmart business is moving to another agency. We’ve been anticipating this and knew the consolidation pitch would most likely go elsewhere, even though we vigorously defended it, led by our parent company Interpublic Group of Companies.

We successfully retained the Kmart brand in a competitive review in 2013 and have continued to deliver and perform on this business that represents 2 percent of our revenue. We’re proud of our long relationship with the brand and have amassed tremendous smarts and category experience that we can now devote to a more fiscally healthy retailer.

To everyone who has touched this business since 2007, we would like to simply say, thank you. You have taken the brand to new levels, doing truly innovative work amid compensation cuts, store closures and a revolving door in our client’s C-suite. You have lived through dwindling budgets, yet created relevant work that transcended our scope, resonated with pop culture and became topics of conversation. As Mashable wrote after it named Kmart the third most viral brand, “most brands would be thrilled to have a viral video. Kmart had three.” 

You should all hold your heads high. Our campaigns for Kmart have resulted in five Cannes Lions, helped us become Communication Arts’ third-most awarded agency in the world and WARC’s third-most creative agency in the U.S.  Well done!

Our very small remaining Kmart team (a bit more than 10 employees) will soon find new homes on some of the brands we are so pleased have recently joined our client roster. With Anheuser-Busch, BMO Harris, J&J, Nestlé, and now the entire Boeing portfolio, we have plenty of positions and exciting new projects for everyone.

Onwards and upwards,

Michael & Todd