Staples Selects Martin/Williams

Staples will attempt to close the gap with category leader Office Depot by focusing new advertising on small-business customers. Martin/Williams’ first work, which will target that segment, is slated to appear in the fall.

Framingham, Mass.-based Staples last week tapped the shop to handle broadcast creative du ties on its $70 million account. Martin/Williams will take a lead strategy role on the account, working closely with Staples’ in-house agency, said Judy Sha piro, the company’s senior vp of corporate advertising.

“This is a great op portunity to combine the strengths of our in-house department, which has worked on the brand for years, with new ideas from Martin/Williams,” she said.

Several factors drove the Staples review, most notably a desire by senior managers—some of whom were recently installed—to boost the fortunes of the nation’s No. 2 office-supply chain by refocusing marketing efforts on business customers.

With $10.7 billion in sales last year, Staples narrowly trails market leader Office Depot, which registered sales of $11 billion.

Martin/Williams won the three-month review over finalists Car michael Lynch in Minneapolis, The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., and Wieden + Kennedy in New York. The shop drew upon its retail, catalog and office-product experience. For its initial meetings, the shop wallpapered its offices with its advertising for past clients such as 3M.

The agency also noted in presentations that its president, Steve Collins, and creative director, Tom Kelly, cut their teeth on 3M’s commercial office-supply account.

Eight-year incumbent Cliff Freeman and Partners, New York, declined to participate.

Shapiro said Martin/Williams took the “most holistic” approach to the company’s new target audience. “We were looking for someone who did a lot of their own research,” She said. “They spent a lot of time looking into who the target audience was.”

Though the agency proposed a new line to replace Freeman’s longstanding “Yeah, we’ve got that,” it was undetermined whether that line would be used in future advertising, Shapiro said. The agency’s work will continue along the lines of “humor and empathy” that Freeman established, she said.

Staples spent $70 million on ads last year, per CMR. Despite the emphasis on business clients, Staples won’t change its budget, Shapiro said.

The win comes at an important time for the Minneapolis agency, which had not won a closely watched review in two years. “It’s a huge morale booster,” Collins said. “One of the reasons we won was because we wanted it so damn bad.”

Martin/Williams joins Grey’s Media Com on Staples’ roster.