Havas Wins Rite Aid Agency of Record Business. But Will There Be Juice Bars?

By Patrick Coffee 

In case you thought Havas North America’s “make really rad shit” approach doesn’t yield big returns, the Rite Aid chain announced today that it has chosen the network as its new AOR for creative and brand strategy.

The news comes after a creative review, and it marks a big loss for the company’s longtime AOR MARC USA, which hired Havas veteran Dave Buklarewicz to oversee the media portion of the business about a year ago. Back in 2015, the local Pittsburgh Business Times speculated that Walgreens’ acquisition of Rite Aid could have “ripple effects” for the agency as the account made it one of the biggest shops in the area.

Back in 2013, AdAge picked the agency-client pairing as one of 7 winners of a related contest. At the time, a company rep said “We see Marc USA as an extension of our organization.”

That said, Rite Aid hasn’t had much in the way of big budget campaigns in recent years. So what will Havas bring to the table? We have a feeling there won’t be any Adult Swim-style videos filmed by kids with iPhones.

“Working closely with our marketing team and key functional areas, Havas will play a critical role in helping us develop compelling content and messaging that resonates with our valued customers, elevates our brand and helps grow our business by creating a differentiated experience in our stores and online,” said the client’s SVP of marketing David Abelman in the press release after noting that “innovation is a critical component of Rite Aid’s strategy.”

Some more details: Havas will create a cross-discipline team called the “Well Village” to work on the account. It will consist of “thought leaders with vast experience in retail healthcare strategy and creative from across the agency’s network,” so it’s a big like a healthcare-specific version of Publicis Groupe’s Power of One. Havas has used this approach for several years.

Upcoming campaigns will also focus on wellness+rewards, the chain’s loyalty program. The first will launch in fall to promote Rite Aid’s 2018-19 immunization program, starting with the flu.

Here’s Havas North America CEO and chairman Paul Marobella’s take: “When we explored the distinct needs of the Rite Aid brand, we knew we needed a solution as unique as their business. By forming our Havas Well Village team, we will be bringing together the best creative, media, retail and health minds at Havas to help accelerate Rite Aid’s opportunity as champions of wellness across its footprint of more than 2,500 stores as well as its online and mobile channels.”

Cool. So no juice bars, poop emojis or f-bombs. Kantar Media has Rite Aid spending just over $20 million on paid media last year.