T.J. Maxx Mulls Semifinalists

Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos is among the seven contenders pitching the $20 million ad account of TJX Cos.’ T.J. Maxx discount clothing stores.

Also pursuing the business are Bates USA and Cliff Freeman and Partners, both in New York; Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis; Euro RSCG Tatham, Chicago; Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C.; and The Richards Group in Dallas.

The contenders were chosen based principally on broadcast creative acumen and their experience with retail accounts, according to officials with Pile and Co., Boston, the consulting firm that is overseeing the review. The client is looking to raise the creative bar beyond the usual promotions-driven ads that thrive in the retail category.

The assignment consists mainly of broadcast chores. The client handles most print work in-house. A cut to finalists will come by month’s end, and a decision is expected in late November.

Among the contenders, Hill, Holliday is seen as something of an early favorite because it already handles the ad business of TJX’s 550-store Marshalls chain.

Though the client is considering Hill, Holliday’s bid, the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls accounts have traditionally been kept at separate agencies and Hill, Holliday will have no advantage over the other contenders, according to Karen Coppola, vice president of marketing for T.J. Maxx.

Incumbent Holland Mark Advertising, Boston, picked up the account of 625-store T.J. Maxx last year when it bought crosstown shop Ingalls, which had the client for some 23 years. The Media Edge in New York handles media duties.

Holland Mark and TJX called it quits last month [Adweek, Sept. 25]. Neither agency nor client has addressed the reasons for the split.

T.J. Maxx officials believed their account was no longer viewed as one of the agency’s most important; agency executives were anxious to move away from labor-intensive retail work in order to focus on better creative opportunities, such as dot-com clients, sources said.

TJX unit A.J. Wright has already moved about $2 million in business from Holland Mark to The Link Agency, Providence, R.I. TJX’s Homegoods unit, also with a low-seven-figure ad budget, is holding a separate agency review.

Holland Mark has let go about 15-20 staffers, who mainly worked on TJX business [Adweek, Oct. 9].