Staples Shifts Gears

An assortment of factors—including management changes, a new focus on the business sector and the quest for cost efficiencies—led Staples to issue at least 20 RFPs to shops nationwide for the creative portion of its $70 million ad account, sources said.

Eight-year incumbent Cliff Freeman and Partners, which crafted the Staples’ tagline, “Yeah, we’ve got that,” was invited to defend, but declined. Staples represents the biggest account for the shop, which, despite its widely recognized creative prowess, has been riddled with highs and lows as of late. Currently, the status of the agency’s Quizno’s account is precarious, as the client evaluates its marketing plan.

And last year, Cliff Freeman’s estimated revenue dipped 16 percent to $38 million as the shop lost its $80 million Hardee’s account and resigned its $50 million Coke business. In the fourth quarter, the shop rebounded with the $50 million Midas win.

The Staples review comes one week after the shop slashed five staffers, or five percent of its work force. The agency didn’t return calls requesting further comment.

“We undertook this [review] primarily to refocus our positioning on the business customer,” said Judy Shapiro, svp, marketing. Staples is the nation’s No. 2 office-supply chain, with $10.7 billion in sales last year, trailing Office Depot, which registered $11 million.

Several recent promotions for key executives—including Shira Goodman’s ascension to evp, marketing in May, and Ron Sargent’s rise to president and CEO earlier this year—are also driving the review, sources said.

As the year began, the client switched media chores to Grey’s MediaCom from independent Pro Media, Natick, Mass. Cost efficiencies and breadth of service were cited as factors for the move, and those will likely be considerations as the creative review unfolds, sources said.

RFPs sent out last week by West Hollywood, Calif., consultancy Select Resources International have gone to both affiliated and independent agencies.

Among them are Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami; The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.; Arnold, McCarthy Mambro Bertino and Modernista!, all in Boston; Car michael Lynch and Martin Williams, both in Minneapolis; and Fallon in New York and Minneapolis. Other shops that received the RFP include New York agencies Bartle Bogle Hegarty; Bates; Bozell; DiMassimo Brand Advertising; Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos; Merkley Newman Harty & Partners; Wieden + Kennedy; Della Femina Rothschild Jeary & Partners; Berlin Cameron/Red Cell; Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners; The Kaplan Thaler Group; and DeVito/Verdi.

Staples plans to visit semi finalists in May and assign “a positioning assignment” to three or four finalists in mid-June, with a final decision coming in early July.