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DraftFCB under the gun

S.C. Johnsmaker Windex other home care-related products is putting advertising accounts for its iconic brands inreview.

S.C. Johnson, maker of Windex and other home care-related products, is putting advertising accounts for its iconic brands into review.

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Updated: December 23, 2010 6:28AM

S.C. Johnson, the Racine, Wis.-based global manufacturer of home care-related products, said Wednesday it is putting the advertising accounts for its entire global portfolio of iconic brands into review — business potentially worth hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to the ad agency or agencies that wind up winning the business.

S.C. Johnson’s big holiday surprise could spell disaster for DraftFCB/Chicago, which, dating back as far as 1953, has handled advertising for a huge number of S.C. Johnson brands, including well-known products such as Pledge, Windex and Raid.

Other agencies S.C. Johnson works with on a much smaller scale include RG/A, Ogilvy and Mullen. The S.C. Johnson spokeswoman indicated incumbents will be invited to participate in the review, though history indicates incumbent agencies often have a hard time holding on to accounts when an agency review is done.

Sources say S.C. Johnson’s move to put its ad accounts into review may be connected to DraftFCB’s decision last August to abruptly oust Mark Modesto, who was in charge of the agency’s S.C. Johnson business in North America, in addition to his role as president of DraftFCB’s North American operations.

There was speculation Modesto might have been involved in efforts to move the S.C.Johnson business from DraftFCB to another agency. DraftFCB declined comment at the time on the reasons for Modesto’s exit. A DraftFCB spokesman did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment on S.C. Johnson’s decision to conduct an agency review.

The S.C. Johnson spokeswoman declined to address possible issues related to Modesto. She said this review was about finding the best global agencies to handle the S.C. Johnson business and improving the company’s marketing capabilities.

DraftFCB/Chicago, of course, is no stranger to bombshell developments. The Wal-Mart debacle of several years ago saw the agency win the retailing behemoth’s $600 million advertising account — only to lose it just weeks later when Wal-Mart executives began to question the manner in which the agency won the business.

A loss of all or a large chunk of the S.C. Johnson business would be far more crippling to the agency, because it is so much a part of the fabric of the shop.

An S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said the agency review will encompass all aspects of the company’s global marketing needs, including advertising, digital/Internet, shopper marketing, promotions, direct marketing and media buying and planning.

The S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said there was no timetable established as yet for how quickly the review would be completed. But she said the review will focus on agencies that have a global knowledge and network and that align with the company’s values and have a track record of building successful global brands. The Chicago-based firm R3:JLB will assist S.C. Johnson in selecting the agencies to compete in the review.

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