MetLife Shifts U.S. Creative From Y&R to Crispin

Move Comes After 50 Years at WPP Agency

MetLife is shifting its $65 million domestic marketing account from WPP’s Y&R to MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter & Bogusky, according to industry executives. The move comes after a review that began in May.

During the review process, which was managed by New York consultant SourceMartin, MetLife narrowed to a list of four finalists, including the incumbent, Havas’ Euro RSCG, and independent Venables Bell & Partners, which pulled out of the pitch a few weeks ago. Agency representatives either declined to comment or could not be reached. SourceMartin declined to comment and MetLife could not be immediately reached.

The pairing of a 140-year-old insurance and financial provider and Crispin — which is known for outlandish antics in advertising, such as SpongeBob SquarePants doing a “butt dance” for Burger King — seems an odd one. But according to the brief that went out to agencies, MetLife was seeking a partner to take it out of its comfort zone.

“The kind of agency we are looking for might make us uncomfortable,” the brief said, adding that the type of shop it wanted to hire needed be strategically smart, deeply curious, hungry for innovation, creatively inventive and willing to take risks. MetLife in the brief also noted it was searching for ways to avoid commoditization, though it wasn’t readily clear if that meant from a brand standpoint or with its media buys, and to cope with generational changes among its customers.

The split with MetLife in the U.S. is a blow for Y&R, which managed to hang onto the account when it has gone into review before. When the marketer called a review in 2000, Y&R held onto the business despite challenges from TBWA/Chiat/Day and FCB Worldwide. At the time, billings on the account were around $35 million. However, Y&R will continue to work with MetLife in markets outside the U.S. and Mediaedge:cia will continue to provide media buying for MetLife in the U.S.

According to Kantar Media, MetLife spent $66 million on domestic measured media in 2009. Digital duties, which are at Neo at Ogilvy, were not affected by the review, nor were business-to-business duties at Bernstein Rein.

In a statement, MetLife said it chose Crispin because “their thinking, creativity and media agnostic methodology are clearly the best fit for MetLife’s ambition to make insurance coverage an imperative for American consumers.” MetLife said it will continue to employ its brand’s ambassador, Snoopy, the other “Peanuts” characters and the MetLife blimps in its advertising.


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