Penney CMO: Saatchi’s Response OK

NEW YORK JC Penney chief marketing officer Mike Boylson said today that he was satisfied with lead creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi’s response to the “Speed Dressing” fracas at the Cannes International Advertising Festival last month.

Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi apologized for the content of the ad, for which production company Epoch Films won a bronze Lion. The spot depicted a teenage girl and boy practicing how fast they can dress before meeting up at the girl’s house — presumably to fool around downstairs — without getting caught by the girl’s mom.

Epoch submitted the execution as a TV spot for Penney, but the client said it never approved the concept and it never ran. Furthermore, Penney objected to the ad’s message of promiscuity. After the outcry, Epoch withdrew its submission, thereby forfeiting its Lion.

Saatchi maintained that it had nothing to do with the entry, but nonetheless said it deeply regretted the message that the ad conveyed.

And although Saatchi blamed Epoch and director Michael Long for producing and submitting the spot, the New York agency also reimbursed Penney for the likely cost of production, Boylson told Adweek. Typically, agencies hire production companies and later bill clients for the work.

Boylson said: “The thing that bothered me was: 1.) [Epoch] used our name and our brand; 2.) They used our brand positioning, ‘Every day matters’; and 3.) Whether they admit it or not — we paid for the production. So, I’m still convinced [that] somehow that got billed back to us. So we worked with Saatchi & Saatchi, came up with an agreed-upon number that we thought the production value was [and] they’ve reimbursed us for that.”

Boylson declined to name a figure. “It wasn’t a huge number, but it was enough to satisfy us that we were reimbursed,” he added.

Reflecting on Saatchi’s response, Boylson said agency executives were “terrific. They were very apologetic. They felt very bad about it.”

He added that “most of the people at Saatchi & Saatchi didn’t know it even happened until it was too late. So, what they were most disappointed about was they didn’t catch it and didn’t stop it.”

He further described the Epoch episode as “water under the bridge” and “more a distraction than anything else,” saying — as he did two weeks ago — that “certainly when you look at the agency — our relationship with them is a lot bigger than this one issue.”