JC Penney’s Hispanic Biz in Play

NEW YORK JC Penney said its Hispanic marketing business is in play, following a decision not to renew its contract with Omnicom’s Dieste Harmel & Partners.

“We are working on just a very short list of agencies that we are going to invite over the next two to three weeks to come in and give a short competencies presentation,” said Olivia Vela, the client’s director of multicultural marketing.

Agencies invited to pitch so far include Conill Advertising and The Vidal Partnership, she said. As many as three to five agencies may be asked to participate in the process. “We’re working right now on narrowing the list on who exactly will come in,” Vela said.

Conill is a unit of Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, JC Penney’s lead general market shop.

The client spends more than $400 million annually in domestic measured media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Hispanic media spending could not be immediately determined. JC Penney spent more than $30 million during the first 10 months of 2007 in domestic Hispanic TV alone.

Duties for the ad agency selected to take on the retailer’s Hispanic business would include “a 360-degree approach,” focusing on creative, media buying and overall account stewardship, Vela said.

The retailer’s procurement office is handling the review with a goal of selecting and having an agency on board by March, Vela said.

Dieste Harmel, which had served as JC Penney’s Hispanic lead agency since 2004, said in a statement late Wesnesday that it had informed the retailer in December of its decision to end the business relationship.

“We are proud of the strategic and creative work we have done for JC Penney and the results we have achieved together,” Aldo Quevedo, president of Dieste Harmel, said in that statement. “We see a tremendous opportunity for our agency in helping dynamic retailers to connect with the Hispanic market. This decision opens the doors to infinite possibilities.”

Principals at Dieste Harmel in Dallas were not available to discuss their exit from the account, an agency rep said Wednesday night. The client is based in Plano, Texas.