Advertising Age reported USAA handed its business to White advertising agencies from Publicis Groupe, replacing White advertising agencies from IPG. The move started when USAA dumped White advertising agency Campbell Ewald following a racist email fiasco involving the C-E office in San Antonio. At one point, IPG hoped to retain the business by erecting a standalone White enterprise within its White network to exclusively service the client. Instead, USAA opted for White offerings from Publicis Groupe. According to Ad Age, Razorfish Global CEO Shannon Denton said the new relationship “is part of Publicis and USAA’s goal to transform the industry. [Denton] added that USAA members are diverse and noted that Publicis Groupe believes the work on the account will be better and more creative if the team is also diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, race and ways of thinking.” Okay, but the White advertising agency in the Publicis Groupe mix is Saatchi & Saatchi, a place routinely executing total market tactics that ultimately marginalize minority professionals in the field. Plus, Saatchi & Saatchi’s former chairman sparked controversy with his clumsy remarks regarding White women in the industry. So USAA has not moved significantly closer to connecting with partners that reflect the USA—or even USAA, for that matter. Only in America.
Publicis Groupe Agency Team Wins USAA Account
By Lindsay Stein
USAA has selected a Publicis Groupe team, including Razorfish, Saatchi & Saatchi and others within the network, to handle all integrated marketing, communications and media after a competitive holding company review.
Publicis Groupe landed the business after what USAA referred to as “several months of rigorous interviews, on-site visits and in-depth discussions with several companies.” For the pitch, the holding company implemented its so-called “Power Of One” strategy by bringing together agencies and services from Publicis Communications, Publicis.Sapient and Publicis Media. In addition to Razorfish, the team includes Saatchi & Saatchi, MSLGroup, Mediavest|Spark and Prodigious. The team will be responsible for creative and content development, marketing, advertising and media buying, social media, corporate responsibility, PR and issues and crisis management.
USAA Chief Marketing Officer Roger Adams wouldn’t identify the other holding companies in the hunt but said though they all had integrated models, Publicis stood out, with its “spot on” examples of integrated creative across all marketing communications and social functions. Each company leader involved in the selection process—across all areas of PR, creative, marketing and social—unanimously chose Publicis Groupe, he added.
Publicis Groupe also rose above competitors because of its focus on diversity, which includes a pledge to hire 30% of new staffers on the team from diverse communities and backgrounds.
While the diversity aspect was called out in the RFP, Mr. Adams said Publicis Group “went well beyond what they were asked for and demonstrated how they would deliver diversity by turning it into a program.”
Shannon Denton, global CEO of Razorfish, who ran the pitch and headed up the team integration for it, said the program is part of Publicis and USAA’s goal to transform the industry. He added that USAA members are diverse and noted that Publicis Groupe believes the work on the account will be better and more creative if the team is also diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, race and ways of thinking.
The five key components of the diversity program are education, recruitment, onboarding, retention and recognition of talent, said Sandra Sims-Williams, chief diversity officer of Publicis Groupe. The holding company will also work closely with USAA on the program.
All work being done by USAA’s previous agency partners will be fully transitioned to Publicis Groupe by the end of the first quarter of 2017, except for WME/IMG, which will continue working on sponsorship-related activities, such as the Army-Navy Game presented by USAA.
USAA began working with MullenLowe in March after it parted ways with former agency partner Campbell-Ewald because of a scandal related to a racist memo. MullenLowe and Campbell-Ewald are both part of Interpublic Group, and after the insurance and financial company dropped Campbell-Ewald, IPG said in a statement that it planned “to transition our USAA team into a standalone, purpose-built entity over the next few months.”
Though IPG said it would create a standalone entity, USAA said it had not signed an agreement with IPG regarding the work terminated with Campbell Ewald and said it was working with IPG on a transition plan as it searches for a new shop. IPG’s Initiative was the media agency on the account, Fleishman Hillard previously handled PR and Merkle worked on USAA’s social business.
Mr. Adams said all of the former agencies “have done a great job in the past,” but the company has to “reorganize for the future and put a premium on integration.”
“We thank USAA for the opportunity over the past eight years to help their members experience the benefits of financial readiness,” said IPG in a statement. “IPG employees across this country have felt pride in sharing the stories of military members and their families with the rest of America and in seeing USAA grow their membership base by over 50% during this time.”
Representatives from MullenLowe, Initiative, Merkle and FleishmanHillard were not immediately available for comment.