Sears Moved by Y&R

Young & Rubicam’s Chicago office has taken over all creative and the majority of account responsibilities on the agency’s Sears, Roebuck and Co. business, previously led by Y&R New York.
The internal shift “makes sense,” reflecting the need for a quick turnaround on retail advertising, a source said. “It’s a client that requires a lot of time on premise,” said another source.
Other sources, though, said Sears has expressed frustration with Y&R’s management of the account.
The shift, which took place over the past 6-8 months, was made to serve a key client better during a busy production period, said Madeline Lewis, account managing director in New York. The New York office continues to provide account planning, media services and part of the account-management duties, said Lewis. A Sears representative 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 Sears’ apparel, the Home Central and Great Indoors stores, mall-store and credit ads. Sears’ new Net initiative, thegreatindoors.com, 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 not disclosed.
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’s “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.
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 May 1999. Kugelman continues to oversee management of the account, but is less involved in the day-to-day.
A source said Y&R, Chicago, has been adding creative staff on the business. In the last three months, the office has added 12 new creatives, despite the loss of the $100 million H&R Block account.
–with Aaron Baar