Publicis Shops Win Sprint, Cox Accounts

Wednesday was a big day for Publicis Groupe on the account front, although it remains unclear just how big.

Both phone giant Sprint and cable company Cox Communications awarded business to Publicis Groupe agencies. The Cox Communications assignment was relatively straightforward. The client selected MediaVest as its planning and buying agency of record for both online and traditional media.

Cox spends about $120 million on ads each year, according to Nielsen’s AdViews ad-tracking service.

MediaVest won the assignment after a competitive review, managed by Pile & Co. Previously, Cox had used a number of regional agencies to handle its media, according to a company rep, but decided to consolidate under one agency to achieve greater efficiencies.

Sprint, a much bigger account -- it spent $1 billion on ads last year, according to Kantar Media -- named “Publicis Groupe, led by Digitas” as its new “primary agency” to manage brand strategy, advertising, digital, offline media, digital buying and analytics. There was no formal review. 



The account will be managed under a new holding company entity called Team Sprint, led by Digitas President Tony Weisman. Leo Burnett, Publicis Groupe’s Chicago-based ad shop, will serve as Sprint’s new creative agency, replacing Omnicom’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners.

Sources said Digitas would handle all digital duties going forward, both creative and media.

What is unclear is how offline media chores will be handled. The incumbent, for both online and offline media duties, is WPP’s Mindshare. A rep there said the client informed the shop it would continue as the “media agency of record," albeit with anticipated changes in the scope of work. (The digital piece is moving to Digitas.)

But the rep insisted that the client left it with the impression that Mindshare would collaborate with Team Sprint going forward as media AOR.

Sources at Publicis were somewhat surprised that Sprint had indicated to Mindshare that it would remain the media AOR on the account. These sources said they believe the entire account would migrate to Publicis. That said, the sources acknowledged that so far, no entity within Publicis had been tasked with handling Sprint’s traditional media chores. A Digitas spokeswoman referred questions to the client.

Conflicts could be an issue, and they abound both within Publicis Groupe and WPP. Publicis’ Zenith Media has handled Verizon for the better part of a decade. Publicis the agency handles T-Mobile. WPP’s MEC has handled AT&T, while Mindshare has handled Sprint.

The client refused to clarify the situation yesterday. Spokeswoman Laura Lisec did not return multiple queries seeking comment.

In its press release on the account change, Sprint included a quote from Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy that read in part: “Team Sprint looks forward to bringing big, bold, memorable ideas to life across all media channels, delivered flawlessly by the best talent ensemble and our rich technology resources.” 

Sprint CMO Bill Malloy stated: “We are focused on continuing to build the Sprint brand, bringing value and simplicity to customers across all segments.Team Sprint, a brand-dedicated agency ecosystem, provides an integrated, collaborative environment where the focus is on consumer needs, today and in the future.”

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