YMCA Seeks Agency To Broaden Its Image

Packaged-goods vet Taylor wants to ‘tell the story behind’ the organization’s nearly 2,500 local Y’s

Executives at the YMCA of the USA want an ad agency to promote their community centers as more than just places to swim and play sports.

“We have a tremendous amount of goodwill,” said Joanna Taylor, the organization’s chief marketing officer. “What we really haven’t done as good a job of is telling people what we do.”

The Chicago-based client, which represents nearly 2,500 Y’s nationwide, wants to be seen as a full-service community organization that provides services ranging from gang intervention to daycare, Taylor said.

The YMCA now works with shops on a project basis. The most recent campaign marked the YMCA’s 150th anniversary in 2001. Spots from GSD&M in Austin, Texas, featured famous “alumni,” such as Martin Luther King Jr., John Glenn and Susan Sarandon. The work was tagged, “The YMCA. What can it do for your kid.”

GSD&M is not expected to pitch the account, sources said.

The YMCA spent about $6 million on ads in 2002, with a similar outlay planned for this year, Taylor said. While relatively small, the account is attractive due to the client’s strong brand name, said several agency execs.

Taylor, who joined the YMCA in early March with a packaged-goods background that includes stints at Kraft, Colgate, Revlon and L’Oréal, said she expects to apply her branding experience to the YMCA. “One of my jobs is to help people understand the entirety of [the YMCA’s mission],” she said.

Taylor will evaluate agencies that she started talking to last month. No RFPs were sent. A group of finalists will be selected by mid-May, and a decision is expected by the end of June.

The YMCA will keep its 6-year-old theme, “We build strong kids, strong families, strong communities,” Taylor said. “We believe that is a nice encapsulation of the YMCA,” she said. “What we need to do now is tell the story behind it.”