BKN Media’s Closing Leads Ward’s to Seek Shop

BKN Media, the buyer of record for Montgomery Ward, is shutting its 30-person Chicago office, putting the Midwest retailer’s estimated $75-million media buying business up for grabs.

The retailer was expected to decide where to put its media buying possibly as early as this week, sources said. Whether the account goes into review or is simply moved to another shop, sources said Montgomery Ward was unlikely to look outside Chicago.

Montgomery Ward’s creative account is handled by Laugh-lin/Constable, Milwaukee, which is not a contender for media duties. Media sources said the retailer has a reputation as a buyer of bulk media cheap, making it an unattractive client. Still, several agencies were known to be looking at Montgomery Ward, wondering if things might change.

Rob Claxton, director of marketing at Montgomery Ward, could not be reached by press time.

Last year, BKN Media (then known as Quantum Media) lost the $50 million Toys R Us media business to Leo Burnett and Starcom, leaving Montgomery Ward as the only buying account of consequence at the shop.

The decision to shutter media operations by kid programming and production company BKN Inc. followed the announcement last week that it was devoting all of its U.S. efforts to growing its two-year-old animation studio and being a “pure play content” provider.

West Los Angeles-based BKN Studios now has 12 programs in development, and its parent company’s library includes “The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog” and “The Mask: The Animated Series.”

The company launched kids content provider BKN International in Europe earlier in 2000 and now sells entertainment content in 80 markets and dubs programming in 30 languages.