Financial Client USAA Drops Campbell Ewald as Agency Reels From Racist Email Controversy

Account had been with IPG shop since 2008

Insurance and financial service firm USAA has canceled its contract with Campbell Ewald, which had been its agency of record since 2008.

"USAA has given Campbell Ewald notice of contract termination," public affairs director Roger Wildermuth told Adweek today. "We will be searching for a new agency that aligns with USAA's culture and core values."

Wildermuth declined to provide further details about the decision or the pending agency review, but this news follows today's announcement that Campbell Ewald ceo Jim Palmer has been fired by holding company Interpublic Group in the wake of a controversy over a racist email sent by a creative director in the agency's San Antonio office late last year.

An IPG spokesperson told Adweek that the holding company will attempt to retain the business. "USAA remains a valued IPG client," IPG said. "We plan to transition our USAA team into a standalone, purpose-built entity over the next few months, so as to assure continuity in the outstanding, business-building programs we deliver for this client."

The Detroit-based Campbell Ewald, which has also worked with U.S. Navy, won USAA in a creative review in December 2008 after the client left its previous agency of record, Deutsch, and named a new CEO.

The organization, which was founded in 1922 by twenty-five U.S. Army officers seeking auto insurance, currently has more than 11 million members in the U.S. When Campbell Ewald won the account just over seven years ago, TNS Media Intelligence reported that USAA spent approximately $15 million on advertising annually. Current numbers were not available today.

Campbell Ewald suddenly found itself at the center of a controversy this week when Adweek's AgencySpy blog published an agency staffer's email from October 2015 inviting San Antonio employees to a "Ghetto Days" event.

"Hopefully as word gets out that this is the way these so-called 'creatives' think," wrote Jet Magazine's VP of digital, Kyra Kyles, "the punishment will be meted out in the form of lost business."

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