JCPenney Returns to Lead Agency Model

Young & Rubicam takes on struggling brand

So much for JCPenney’s multiple creative agency offense.

Seventeen months after sprinkling its business among several shops, the struggling retailer has reverted to a more classic lead agency model with the hiring of WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam in New York. The move is return to Penney’s past practice.

Before hiring Peterson Milla Hooks and Mother in late 2011, Saatchi & Saatchi was the lead horse, and before that, DDB. Now, Y&R takes the reins as the retailer looks to rebound from a disastrous 2012.

The company recently replaced short-lived CEO Ron Johnson with a familiar face, former CEO Mike Ullman. And one of the faces of Y&R, global chief creative officer Tony Granger, is familiar with Ullman, having worked on the brand in his last job as New York creative chief at Saatchi.

The hire comes after a series of credentials and chemistry meetings between Penney and various creative agencies. A key player in those meetings was marketing guru Sergio Zyman, the former head of marketing at Coca-Cola who is working as a consultant to Penney and, in some ways, acting CMO.

The win is David Sable’s biggest coup since he became global CEO of Y&R in early 2011. After all, Penney, even amid its struggles, spent more than $440 million in media last year, up 16 percent from $378 million in 2011, according to Nielsen.

Still, the challenge is formidable: how do turn around an old big box brand that relies on sales circulars to drive traffic? Well, the new agency is not wasting any time. When asked when the shop’s first work is expected, one executive replied, “We’ve jumped right in.”

Publish date: April 24, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT