IPG Ad Agency President Slanders US Army and Personnel as “Prejudiced… Deeply Flawed… Low Average Esteem, Suicidal Tendencies”
In December 2005, AdAge reported that the U.S. Army had awarded the US government’s largest single ad account to Interpublic Group of Cos. (IPG) McCann Erickson in New York, NY, following a series of on-again, off again account reviews. IPG has held on to the account ever since, but inside accounts say that the relationship hasn’t been great.
Now, the President of an IPG ad agency has publicly called the Army and the people in it “…a prejudiced, misogynistic, self-destructive organization of deeply flawed, violent men and women of low average esteem, suicidal tendencies and intelligence”.
Contracts & Key Events
The Burnett account had drawn fire because Publicis Groupe Leo Burnett USA’s original contract, slated to end in 2003, was repeatedly extended, instead of being re-competed. Burnett continued working on the account through a 3-month transition period, which meant that creative output from McCann wouldn’t have an impact much before summer 2006. This is normal for major ad accounts. That impact was most noticeable in the replacement of the “Army of One” ads with a new “Army Strong” theme.
July 5/13: Say What? Mike Hughes, who is President of Interpublic’s subsidiary The Martin Agency, chooses to share his thoughts about the US Army, one of Interpublic’s larger clients via McCann Erickson:
“Are U.S. soldiers heroic in taking on dangerous tasks to help protect us? Are many of the soldiers fine and great men? Yes. Is the Army a prejudiced, misogynistic, self-destructive organization of deeply flawed, violent men and women of low average esteem, suicidal tendencies and intelligence? Yes, again.”
That an ad agency President, of all people, should see fit to publicly utter such a thing about his group’s client, is more than passing strange. That it should come in the form of an evidence-free smear is indefensible – and a clear violation of Interpublic’s Corporate Code of Conduct [PDF]:
“We must also exercise extreme care when participating in online forums—including blogs, discussion boards, social media sites or any other publicly-available online resources – as all such communications are identifiable with and attributable to IPG. This means, in part, that we must not make any statement, publicly or privately, that would disparage IPG. This includes any director, officer or other employee of IPG, as well as our clients.”
The statement in question doesn’t come from some random staffer. It comes from a top-level executive of one of IPG’s largest subsidiaries – with several direct clients, like Wal-Mart, that are very supportive of the US Army. In light of this statement, and the mindset behind it, one is forced to wonder whether the relationship issues highlighted by former Army Strong Marketing Manager Col. David Lee (q.v. April 5/11 entry) have a deeper source.
Dept. of “Why do you still have your job”
April 15/13: Performance anxieties. Foreign Policy Magazine’s E-Ring Blog questions the Army’s decision to spend up to $192.1 million on ad agency work with McCann in FY 2013, when they’re grounding pilots under sequestration. In terms of recruiting:
“The Army expects to fall short of its recruiting goal for the Army Reserves this year, Bettancourt said. It’s the only service branch in the military not meeting its recruiting goal for the current fiscal year. It also would be the first time the Army did not meet its recruitment goal for the Reserves since 2006, at the height of violence in the Iraq war. That year, the Army signed up 25,378 people, just short of its goal of 25,500. By comparison, in fiscal 2013 through February, the last month for which data is available, the Reserves had signed just 10,531 new recruits, or only 88 percent of its year-to-date goal.”
April 13/12: McCann Worldgroup, Inc. in New York, NY wins an initial $188 million fixed-price-award-fee indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract, as part of a new 5-year ad deal with the US Army that runs until April 6/16. Subsequent reports show that the contract has a $565 million cap.
The award deals with the same “marketing and advertising services in support of a nationwide advertisement campaign for the personnel recruitment and retention programs throughout the Army.” Work will be performed in New York and various location determined by task orders, and the bid was re-competed through the Internet, with 4 bids received by the US Army’s Mission and Installation Contracting Command in Fort Knox, KY (W9124D-11-D-0036).
Follow-on 5-year award
April 5/11: Inside look. Col. David Lee (ret.), who was the former Director of Marketing for the Army Strong campaign, offers a very revealing look behind the scenes at the Army/McCann relationship, which had its share of issues. “7 Deadly Truths About the Army-McCann Relationship“:
“First, anyone close to this business knows that it was a surprise that McCann won the review…. Second, McCann has taken credit for the Army achieving its recruiting goals…. Third… McCann is not the flexible organization that the Army really needs…. The company was not good at integrating work, which had a big impact on our budget…. Fourth, McCann lacks humility. Many senior members of the agency at the time refused to accept that the client knew more about the business than they did…. Fifth, McCan… was very slow to help the Army get into social media…. Sixth, McCann was terrible at providing the Army metrics needed to make decisions. The Army gave McCann over 2 years to develop a dashboard that finally the Army turned to another contractor to provide…. Final point… many dedicated and well-intentioned members of the agency team…. Of all the agency partners, the one shining example, and in my mind the reason McCann did not lose this account, is [the firm of] Weber Shandwick.”
April 4/11: Advertising Age:
“Last Thursday night, McCann executives gathered at the Hyatt hotel in midtown Manhattan to toast the news they’d gotten just hours before. After a stressful seven-month pitch, the Interpublic Group of Cos.’ agency was able to hold onto the $200 million-per-year U.S. Army account it took on in December 2005…. the fact that recruitment numbers were met during McCann’s tenure on the account was a key factor in the Army’s decision. In that regard, it got a little help from the recession…”
Dec 10/10: McCann World Group Inc. in New York, NY received a $75 million fixed-price-award-fee National Advertising Contract is to provide marketing and advertising support for US Army personnel acquisition and retention programs.
Work is to be performed in New York, NY, with an estimated completion date of June 6/11. The CECOM Contracting Center at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD manages this contract (W15P7T-06-D-C002).
Nov 5/10: AdWeek reports that 4 New York agency teams are about to make presentations to the U.S. Army in a marketing services review. “Sources identified the shops as Interpublic Group’s Draftfcb, WPP Group units Grey and Young & Rubicam and the incumbent, IPG’s McCann Erickson.”
The Army reportedly intends to keep its “Army Strong” theme, regardless of who wins.
Dec 7/05: McCann Erickson, New York, is being awarded an estimated $1.35 billion firm-fixed price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for the planning and implementation of advertising, promotional and publicity programs to support all recruiting and retention programs for the active-duty Army and the U.S. Army Reserve. This includes a full range of services, from developing a tactical advertising strategy to producing advertising using numerous communications methods including television, radio, print and Internet site, direct marketing, promotions, and events.
The contract could run until Dec 6/11, based on a 5 year contract that consists of a base period of 2 years, plus 3 individual 1-year options. The Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command (CECOM) Acquisition Center at Fort Monmouth, NJ manages this contract (W15P7T-06-D-C002).
Agencies involved in the winning bid included creative agency McCann, media agency Universal McCann, MRM for digital and interactive, Momentum for event marketing, and public relations agency Weber Shandwick.
Competitor finalists were WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather in New York, NY; and Omnicom Group’s BBDO in Atlanta, GA. The Army did extend their previous contract with Leo Burnett one last time in September 2005, in order to avoid an interruption in advertising during the transition period. See also Chicago Business.