We Hear: JWT Loses Macy’s Projects Amid Fallout Over Martinez Lawsuit

By Patrick Coffee 

Since the Gustavo Martinez discrimination suit story first broke at the beginning of March–and especially after he stepped down as global CEO/chairman of J. Walter Thompson one week after saying “there is absolutely no truth to these outlandish allegations”–many have wondered whether any changes in accounts would occur as a result of the case and the media attention it has attracted.

Last week we heard that Macy’s had become the first client to end or curtail its relationship with the agency.

A client spokesperson gave us a somewhat noncommittal statement:


“We have no advertising agency of record – we have worked with many agencies, including JWT. Right now, we have no upcoming projects with them.”

We then specifically asked the company whether this meant that it had ended its relationship with JWT and whether the decision not to award upcoming projects to the agency had anything to do with the Martinez case. In response, representatives simply restated the fact that Macy’s works with its partners “on a project by project basis” and that this approach “has been our standard practice and pre-dates this year.”

Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter, however, tell us that Macy’s has decided internally to stop working with JWT after its most recent retail campaign, that this announcement amounts to a loss for the WPP network and that the decision was directly related to the ongoing case against the agency and its now-former CEO, which continues to make headlines every week.

Macy’s, like so many other clients, has eschewed the AOR model in favor of establishing project-based relationships with all of its agency partners over the past year and a half. But the quotes we received indicate that JWT will not be working on the chain’s next big holiday campaign.

News stories listing JWT clients often include Macy’s first due to name recognition, and the agency has been a roster shop for the retail giant since 2006, when the creative account was worth an estimated $20 million. JWT’s Chicago office played lead on that pitch after Lowe lost the business, and in a review the following year it also won AOR duties for Macy’s forthcoming Fall 2007 campaign.

The success of JWT’s work for the brand has also played a role in shaping its internal leadership structure. In January 2015, Claire Capeci was promoted to global president of retail for the network based largely on “her continued stewardship of JWT’s Macy’s account.

The agency’s most recent headlining work for this client came late last year as part of the latter’s 8th annual “Believe” holiday campaign.