Ogilvy & Mather loses its Sears business after
43 years to Y&R, its WPP Group sister agency

After 43 years as Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago’s anchor and biggest account, Hoffman Estates-based Sears cut the tie and gave its $640 million business to Young & Rubicam, effective Oct. 1. Both agencies belong to the London-based WPP Group.

Back in 1963, Ogilvy opened an office here and imported top Manhattan creatives and executives to service Sears. Y&R began sharing Sears billings in 1993.

Y&R handled the “softer side of Sears,” while Ogilvy handled hard goods, Kenmore, Die Hard and Craftsman brands.

“It’s my 10-year pitch,” said Kary McIlwain, Y&R/Chicago’s managing partner of the recent non-traditional review. Despite talk that the review was spurred by Sears’ new CEO’s desire to cut costs, McIlwain said the “This wasn’t about money. We won this over time.”

McIlwain led a team including Stephanie Kugelman, vice chairman-chief strategic officer and Mark Figliulo, Chicago’s chief creative officer.

She said she tapped the entire agency network and presented a single team solution rather than a multitude of plans from the ad agency, the Hispanic agency, and the promotion agency.

Will Y&R recruit Sears people from Ogilvy? “We’re in the process of figuring out staffing needs and we would obviously consider first and foremost people with experience,” said McIlwain.

Sears has been Y&R’s biggest account, followed by Miller Miller Brewing Company. With the Sears departure, Ogilvy’s remaining accounts are BP, Kimberly Clark personal hygiene brands, and some Suave and Dove products.

Ogilvy’s current management is Linda Garrison and Joe Sciarrotta.

In a move to effect the economies of scale, both agencies move to different offices in the Merchandise Mart earlier this year.