FCB, Amazon.com Part Ways

FCB San Francisco confirmed Thursday that it has ended its three-and-a-half year relationship with Amazon.com, for which the True North agency had developed such memorable campaigns as the award-winning “Sweatermen” spots.

The account was about to go up for review, according to spokespeople at Amazon. However, FCB cited “fundamental disagreements with the direction that Amazon.com was taking in 2001,” according to a statement released by the agency. FCB spokespeople declined to elaborate.

Amazon currently retains four other local agencies worldwide, and the company said the review comes about following a decision to align all of its disparate global advertising under a single agency, and not because it disapproves of how its agencies are handling its business.

“Our business has been growing exponentially in the U.S. and globally … and as part of that growth, we are beginning a global agency review, the promise of which we’ve been planning for quite some time,” said Amazon’s director of global brand marketing Becky Roberts.

“We don’t have a global communications strategy. We believe that there are consistencies of our brand that cross borders, and we want to find a global agency that can help us define them, and make use of that worldwide,” Roberts said. “However, at the same time, [that] agency has to have excellent offices in the countries in which we operate.”

Roberts said that Amazon invited FCB to participate in the review, but was rebuffed.

“Frankly, we were disappointed that they chose not to,” she said.

Roberts declined to indicate which agencies it had invited to participate in the review, but said that the company should announce its new worldwide agency by first quarter 2001.

Roberts waved aside rumors that the review was related to the recent appointment of a new chief marketing officer, Alan Brown, formerly of MasterCard.

“The internal process of how we will run our advertising business has been under consideration for some time, and this is really the external part that you’re seeing,” she said.

Spokespeople from FCB and Amazon declined to comment on the size of either the global or domestic account. However, Amazon’s global business is likely about $100 million: according to SEC filings, the company spent about $140.9 million on advertising in 1999, and information from Competitive Media Reporting indicates that it spent about $36 million on media buys last year.

Disagreements between Amazon.com and FCB San Francisco have been going on for quite some time. Back in March 1999, the agency received a letter from Amazon.com giving it 30 days to improve its performance, or face termination of the relationship.

Roberts, however, described Amazon’s past relationship with FCB as “excellent.”

FCB executives, too, put a good face on the parting.

“We are proud of our association with Amazon.com and stand by the world-class advertising we have produced for them,” said Simon Bolton, president and chief executive officer at FCB San Francisco, in a prepared statement. “This is, however, a fitting point on which to end our relationship.”

“To help build one of the world’s great brands is an exciting ride,” he said in the statement. “Our experience with Amazon.com will be remembered for many years to come.”

In past years, FCB created a campaign for Amazon.com — emphasizing the size of its inventory — which portrayed a fictitious search for a place large enough to house its bookstore.

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