Visions of Sugarplums: Musicland Dreams of a Top-Flight Agency For a Modest Holiday Creative Assignment

MINNEAPOLIS – Judging by the agencies invited to pitch a creative assignment from Musicland Corp. here, one would guess the billings must be substantial or that the entire ad account is up for review. Not so.
Musicland, which has little to spend and carries an in-house agency to create 95% of the company’s advertising in newspapers, appears to have higher hopes than billings.
The retailer has opened for review a broadcast creative-only assignment for its Musicland and Sam Goody audio/video stores in the U.S. The agency chosen will create, but not place, TV spots for the holiday season. And although Musicland is said to have set aside an $8-10 million media budget for the campaign, the winning agency will receive only fees and production mark-ups.
But sources close to the company said Musicland’s wish-list includes some of the country’s hottest, largest and most established creative agencies. Those believed to be among agencies invited to participate (not withstanding conflicts and interest) include Minneapolis-based Fallon McElligott, Carmichael Lynch, Bozell and CME-KHBB; West Coast shops Chiat/Day and Wieden & Kennedy; Chicago-based Leo Burnett, Foote, Cone & Belding, Ogilvy & Mather and J. Walter Thompson; Ross Roy Communications, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Hill, Holiday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston; and Jerry Inc. and Cliff Freeman and Partners, both New York.
One source said the assignment may be a onetime project with a chance to handle other special work throughout the year. ‘Musicland has never been a big TV advertiser, but they want to see if any of the big agencies are interested,’ said this source. ‘But unless they decide to dissolve the in-house agency, this is never going to be much of an account, profit-wise. It’s the type of account that would be ideal for a small creative shop looking to flex its creative muscles.’
‘It’s the right account for some agency, but most of the bigger shops aren’t going to be able to afford to take on an assignment this small,’ said an executive at one of the agencies contacted.
Musicland executives could not be reached for comment.
Jeff Cox, executive vp with new-business consulting firm Rojek Marketing Group, Cleveland, cautioned that although a small assignment may be the tip of the iceberg, clients should examine their objectives and budgets to help determine the right mix of agencies to invite to a pitch.
‘Every client would like to work with one of the big-name, prestigious agencies,’ Cox commented. ‘But clients have to question whether they can afford the big agencies. And if clients are smaller, they have to realize they don’t have to go to those big agencies for quality creative work.’
Questionnaires and examples of relevant creative work are due back to Musicland today. Sources said a short list will be announced this week.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)