USAA Consolidates With Publicis Groupe 9 Months After ‘Ghetto Day’ Controversy

By Erik Oster 

USAA will consolidate its marketing business with a Publicis Groupe umbrella organization following a review that lasted several months.

All ongoing work will be moved to Publicis agencies by the end of the first quarter of 2017. Publicis agencies leading work on the account will include Saatchi & Saatchi, Razorfish, Mediavest|Spark, Prodigious on content marketing and MSLGROUP running public relations. The company also retained WME|IMG for sponsorship events like the Army-Navy football game.

The appointment includes a diversity pledge, with a promise “to hire 30 percent of new employees on the account from diverse communities.” That pledge sees USAA joining General Mills, HP and Verizon in issuing specific diversity requirements to its agencies. It is not, however, a specific requirement included in the contract between agency and client.

“All of our current agencies have made valuable contributions to the financial security of our members and the success of USAA,” Roger Adams, USAA senior vice president for marketing and communications said in a statement. “This decision was not easy or taken lightly but the shift to a single-supplier model is in the best interests of the association moving forward.”

“Publicis Groupe is the right fit with USAA’s culture, sharing our passion for serving America’s military community and belief in the value of diverse perspectives,” he added. “Their integrated service offering and approach to diversity perfectly complement our team at USAA.”

Back in January, USAA cancelled its contract with Campbell Ewald in the wake of the San Antonio office’s “Ghetto Day” email scandal and subsequent firing of CEO Jim Palmer. Around two months later, USAA selected IPG’s MulenLowe as its AOR.

As it did with Walmart earlier this year, Publicis has set up a dedicated “Power Of One” team to serve the client. Some of the same units will be working on this account.

“Publicis Groupe has transformed itself with two goals in mind: to put our clients’ needs at the heart of everything we do and to tear down our silos. To that end we created The Power Of One, a strong collaborative model unleashing all our assets,”explained chairman and CEO Maurice Lévy. “For USAA, we delivered a customized strategy and program that demonstrated the positive impact of this new organization under one client leader who can leverage all our capabilities and competencies.”

“We have great admiration for the services and commitment of USAA; we are thrilled to work closely with them and to deliver state-of-the-art communications and marketing solutions in the new age of connectivity.”

According to Kantar Media, USAA spent $146 million on paid media in 2015.