Renovating for Fall

NEW YORK The Home Depot, in the early stages of a review of creative duties on its ad account, finds itself at a crossroads.

The retailer, which spends nearly $600 million annually in major measured media, has high brand awareness and is unquestionably the leader in the home improvement category. Still, the company — whose current lead creative agency is independent The Richards Group in Dallas — feels that it has lost some of its competitive edge to rivals like Lowe’s and needs to better understand the mind-set of its core consumers, according to a request for proposals issued by search consultancy Select Resources International.

Home Depot “has done a great job of building awareness; it now needs to generate preference and loyalty,” the document states. “The Home Depot is seeking a better understanding of who its best customer is and what winning with them looks like; how to predict shopping needs/behaviors; how to identify and recognize them; and how to target them.”

The RFP adds that in the past five years the Atlanta-based company has “lost its competitive advantage on nearly all key brand drivers,” noting that it compares unfavorably to Lowe’s on shopping experience and is about equal in terms of products, inspiration, price and convenience.

Home Depot is at an “unprecedented place in its brand’s evolution and competition for consumer spending has never been stronger,” the document states. “The company needs to differentiate its message more than ever before” and “position itself to consider a radical rethink of how it goes to market.”

The estimated 20 agencies that responded to the RFP await a cut this week to six or seven shops that client executives will visit. Based on the visits, which are scheduled for the week of Sept. 29, Home Depot will select three or four finalists to pitch the business, according to the RFP. Creative work, including some interactive marketing, are in play; separately, the company intends to review media duties (now at Interpublic Group’s Initiative in Atlanta), in-store efforts, direct mail duties, multicultural marketing and sports marketing.

The retailer would prefer to hire an agency in the Eastern time zone, and ideally one with at least 300 staffers, given the volume of work required by the account. (In past years, the company has produced more than 50 TV spots and hundreds of radio ads a year.) The RFP also expresses a preference for shops with retail experience and the ability to develop highly integrated efforts across various channels of communication.