Clash Of The Titans

Most people in advertising love Wieden + Kennedy.
Most people in advertising love Starbucks.
Apparently, the two don’t feel the love for each other.
Ad Age has the scoop:

“Wieden always felt like it was a one-way relationship,” said an executive familiar with the matter. “They felt like they presented a way to drive the brand forward, and Starbucks wasn’t receptive.” The agency wouldn’t comment beyond its statement from Mr. Wieden in announcing the resignation: “There are times when it just makes sense to part ways with a client,” he said. “In this case, this seems to be the best decision for both parties.”
Executives with knowledge of the situation said Starbucks was simply a very frustrating client for Wieden, an agency that other marketers have described as unusually honest in its communication with clients. Other agencies that have worked with Starbucks have felt frustration with the marketer too. Rich Silverstein, co-founder of Omnicom Group’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which did two stints representing Starbucks, said much of the fault lies with the mercurial Mr. Schultz. “He does not appreciate advertising,” he said. “Any agency that comes in has one foot out the door already.”

Can someone give me your own, or Wieden’s, definition of being “unusually honest in its communication with clients”?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. look at the work wieden sells. it’s obvious they play to win versus playing to not lose. and i’d assume that’s only possible by challenging clients in every area of the relationship more often than acquiescing. “unusually honest” probably just means saying what you really believe, because to do otherwise would feel less than honest. most clients would rather be fawned over by an agency that does “solid” work.

  2. I think being “unusually honest” is just not kissing the client’s ass…It’s sad to see the degradation of an idea because the agency, as the previous commenter td put it, “plays not to lose”. You see this happen when any mediocre advertising is produced. How many frustrated copywriters and art directors have you known that complain incessantly about how bad the “final product” was. Watering down only happens because nobody has the balls to stand up to the client.

  3. My Starbucks stock is tanking. The last thing this client should be, is headstrong.

  4. One thing left unsaid here is no self-respecting coffee drinker living in Portland, or Seattle for that matter, would deign to drink Starbucks. We have neighborhood coffee shops to support.

  5. Really? “Look at the work wieden sells”?
    Like what?
    They’ve gone to the Riswold montage fairy dust one time too many for nike. Nike hasn’t done anything interesting in 5 years, and are getting their asses kicked by underarmour.
    Their Old Spice work is nice, but owes a huge debt to Gerry Graf and his candy portfolio.
    CareerBuilder is decent, but had no traction in popular culture, much less the awards shows.
    Hal Curtis did a nice spot for Coke, but that’s ONE TV spot.
    Nothing Integrated for the last 6 years that I can think of (that wasn’t a co-production with someone else).
    WK/NY is a joke. Can’t win business. Still running creatively on the same ESPN campaign for the 19th consecutive year.
    WK/Amsterdam is in shambles.
    WK/London has kept the network afloat for the last 5 years.
    The only decent Sbux work WK/Portland did was ripped off.
    Used to be, WK was one of the best companies to work for, PERIOD. Now, they’re not even the best ad agency to work for.
    Now, they’re not even the best ad agency to work for on the WEST COAST.
    PS-Stop using Aaron Ruell. He stopped being quirky/funny like 3 years ago. If you want to work at Wexley, you should just go work for Wexley.

  6. @Dean – thanks for this download. sounds like you’re pretty close to the subject matter.

  7. okay, okay. so they sell “nice” and “decent” (albeit ripped-off) work, the network is totally crumbling, their clients get their asses kicked and it’s a horrid place to work. so dean, you must also know EXACTLY how wieden defines being “unusually honest in its communication with clients.” care to share?

  8. Dean,
    Want to know the saddest part of all? W+K is still the best in the business. That says a lot about the state of affairs in the industry.

  9. WK is torn between two forces.
    Force One: The old days when WK told clients “This is what we’ll do. Take it or leave it.” You know. Back when they were relevant.
    Force Two: The realization that they can cash in massively from the great work they did way back when Giants Roamed The Halls.
    They can’t do both. So……
    Keep a creative clusterf*ck like Starbucks around long enough to enrage everyone who knows how to make an ad, then put your hack CDs on it, then give it to the former 12’ers making 17k or whatever, let them scrimshaw a branded sustainable teepee or two, all the while suck down delicious monthly retainer.
    Then, right when it’s obvious starbucks realizes that this is retarded, and opens up the ads to other agencies, “Fire” them, claiming you’re still in the “take it or leave it” business.
    Unusually honest communications? Spin. Pure and simple. If you can’t convince creatives you’re a “take it or leave it” agency with the work, maybe you can do it with a press release.
    Oh, and “Alex Bogusky”….your defensive post is proof that WK might be able to dish “unusual honesty” but simply can’t take it. Never could.

  10. Ha! No, I was not defending W+K; rather, I was pointing out how screwed up the industry is. Honestly, can you name agencies doing better than W+K? My point was that all the allegedly great shops are sucking hard right now. They have been for years. So you’ve peeked behind the W+K curtain. Big deal. There are similarly impotent wizards running the other shops too. And generating equally outrageous spin. CP+B, for example.