In Depth

Home Depot Changes Media Agencies For Its $700 Million Account Without a Review

By Michael Bush
Advertising Age

Less than 18 months after Home Depot chose to keep its $700 million U.S. media account with Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative after a lengthy pitch, the retailer now has switched course and moved that business to Aegis' Carat without a review, according to industry executives with knowledge of the matter.

The sudden move, which some attributed to a growing rift between marketer and agency in recent months, comes as a blow to Initiative, though the search marketing and newspaper portions of the account will remain in the Interpublic/Mediabrands fold at Reprise Media and NSA Media, respectively. The Canadian portion of the business will also remain at Initiative.

Initiative employees were notified of the news yesterday in a memo from Tim Spengler, Initiative's North American president. Home Depot and Initiative employees could not be immediately reached for comment. And representatives for Carat did not return calls before press time.

The agency has had the account for almost 17 years and held on to the business in 2009 after a pitch that included Carat as well as WPP's Mindshare. At the time the agency managed to retain control of the traditional media-planning and -buying assignments while picking up the digital, newspaper and search portions of the business.

Last week, the agency picked up a much smaller account, winning the $12 million PetCo business and naming Michael Hayes president of Initiative Digital. Mr. Hayes was previously the agency's exec VP-managing director of digital. It had a few wins in 2010, including the $600 million Merck/Schering Plough account as well as the financial-services company USAA and California Lottery media accounts.

For Carat, this is the second massive account it has added to its roster in less than a month. In late December the agency retained the $1.2 billion Pfizer account after a competitive review. That win capped a huge year for the agency, which brought in Red Bull's $54 million U.S. media planning and buying assignment, Diageo's $130 million U.S. media account and the U.S. assignment for Relativity Media, producer of movies "The Social Network" and "Catfish." The shop also picked up the $100 million Beiresdorf planning and buying account and the $85 million Smucker's account earlier in the year.

Home Depot ranks No. 51 on Ad Age's 100 Leading National Advertisers report, with more than $700 million in total U.S. ad spending in 2010. #