Sears Exits Y&R N.Y. for Chicago

Shop Says Geography Spurred Move; Others: N.Y. Dropped the Ball
CHICAGO–Young & Rubicam’s Chicago office has taken over creative and the bulk of account management responsibilities on the Sears, Roebuck and Co. business, which was previously led by the agency’s New York headquarters.
The internal shift “makes sense,” reflecting the need for a quick turnaround on retail advertising, one executive said. “It’s a client that requires a lot of time on premise,” said another.
The shift was made to serve a key client better during a busy production period, said Madeline Lewis, account managing director in New York. The office continues to provide account planning, media services and part of the account-management duties, said Lewis.
Other sources, however, said Sears became frustrated with Y&R’s New York team and that the account move was necessary to prevent the client from looking elsewhere.
Sears declined comment.
Y&R, New York, had handled most of the agency’s work for the Hoffman Estates, Ill., retailer since it was awarded the business in 1993. Sears’ estimated $690 million account is split between Y&R and Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago. Media remains at Y&R’s The Media Edge, New York, and MindShare, Chicago.
The additional work for Y&R, Chicago, includes responsibilities on Sears’ apparel, the Home Central and Great Indoors stores, and mall-store and credit ads. Sears’ new Net initiative,, is also expected to be handled by Y&R, Chicago, sources said. The home-decorating and remodeling site is expected to be operational this fall. Billings were undisclosed.
Y&R, Chicago, managing director Kary McIlwain has emerged as a key client contact for Sears; the office’s chief creative officer, Mark Figliulo, will helm the creative side of the business. Lewis shares day-to-day management duties with McIlwain.
When Y&R won the apparel account, it was the business’ “crown jewel,” a source said. The client’s focus is now more promotional, and that has changed the relationship with Y&R, New York, sources said. “Certainly, the amount of support for the Y&R assignments are down considerably this year,” a source said.
Changes at Y&R may have played a role. Y&R managing partner on the business, Stephanie Kugelman, became CEO of the New York office in June 1999. While she continues to oversee the account, she is less involved in the day-to-day.
–with Aaron Baar