Filene’s Parent Seeks An Agency

May Stores Puts Creative Duties on a $65 Mil. Account in Play
CHICAGO–Seeking to improve the creative quality of its advertising, May Department Stores Co., the nation’s second largest department store group, is seeking an agency to handle broadcast work for seven of its chains.
May’s advertising –both creative duties and media buying–has been done largely in-house by each of its divisions.
The company, which trails only Federated Department Stores in the department store category, spent about $65 million on broadcast ads last year, and $445 million in total, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
The review is being handled by Select Resources International, a consultancy in Los Angeles. According to questionnaires sent primarily to shops in the Midwest and East, the review was spurred by new management at May that wants to “upgrade its broadcast creative and production quality.”
May is based in St. Louis, and while it “would conceivably prefer a Midwest agency,” location will not be a compelling factor, the document states. The client wants a shop that handles billings of at least $100 million. Retail experience is advantageous but not necessary, said Catherine Bension, a senior partner at SRI. However, “We’re not going to exclude anyone,” she said.
SRI will evaluate responses on Aug. 10, and draw up a short list of six to eight agencies. Those shops will meet with May executives during the week of Aug. 17, and a final list of three or four shops will be selected. Those finalists will be given a speculative assignment with a decision expected by the end of September.
The broadcast work will not be a branding effort. May wants promotional spots that can be used for each of the seven chains by merely inserting each store’s name at some point. The selected shop can expect to handle creative and production tasks on two promotional events per month for all seven divisions. The assignment could also include some radio work.
The bulk of May’s spending is on newspaper advertisements; $360 million was spent on that channel last year. The company spent $45 million on network TV and $20 million on spot TV in 1997, according to CMR.
The chains involved in the assignment are Filene’s, Foley’s, Kaufmann’s, Robinsons-May, Famous-Barr, Strawbridge’s and Meier & Frank.
At its annual meeting in May, the company said it also plans to spend $3.6 billion over five years to open 100 new stores, remodel 100 existing stores and install $350 million in new technology.
…..–with Steve Krajewski …..and Jane Irene Kelly