Starbucks Splits With Lead Agency

Starbucks and agency Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., are parting ways.

“There are times when it just makes sense to part ways with a client,” said agency CEO Dan Wieden, in a statement. “In this case, this seems to be the best decision for both parties.” Wieden declined comment beyond that. Starbucks execs, based in Seattle, could not immediately be reached.

According to sources, the split up over creative differences is amicable, with Wieden and Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz remaining friends.

Starbucks had typically run a major campaign during the Christmas season. According to a source, the client and agency have not determined whether a final effort from the shop will be launched this year.

Following a series of online spots, the brand’s first national TV campaign, tagged, “Pass the cheer,” broke late last year. One animated ad showed penguins handing a window washer a cup of coffee.

Some purists complained that any commercials undermined the brand’s heritage and core values. This spring, the agency designed an “online suggestion box” for chairman Schultz, who had expressed a desire to get back to basics in terms of brand promotions.

Despite its iconic status, Starbucks has struggled of late, stung by disappointing quarterly results and closing some 600 stores.

Starbucks spent $55 million on U.S. ads in 2007 (not including online) and almost $25 million through June 2008, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Wieden has handled both creative and media duties.

Wieden won the business in April 2004 following a review. At that time, spending was $20 million.