Modernista vs. Reebok

Some agencies don’t simply bend over and take it, I suppose. From The Boston Business Journal:

In a rare instance of an ad agency fighting back against a client, Modernista of Boston is suing a former client, a unit of Reebok International Ltd., for breach of contract.
The case hinges on Modernista’s allegation that the Reebok unit, shoe retailer The Rockport Company LLC in Canton, failed to pay for advertising services provided during ongoing negotiations for a 2007 contract extension. Both companies had signed an interim “bridge agreement” during those negotiations, according to the lawsuit. Modernista — which is claiming $500,000 in damages — also alleges that Rockport intentionally misled the agency into signing that agreement in order to receive creative services at a cheaper price.
Indeed, according to sources, Rockport began conducting a secret review with a handful of agencies as early as November 2006, telling shops they felt like “a small fish” among Modernista’s big-name clients. Rockport’s current agency, Hill Holliday, works for AOL, Toys “R” Us and Dunkin’ Donuts, among others.
“It’s essentially a no-no to sue a client for obvious reasons. It could set up a bad image problem for the agency, because the agency comes off looking litigious. Client/agency relationships are very volatile. I’m guessing Modernista just wanted to make a point. They might think, ‘We’re tired of agencies getting beaten up by arrogant clients,’ ” said Chris Cakebread, an advertising professor at Boston University.

I don’t know anything about this case other than what this article says. But it seems to me that if you’re a client that feels like “a small fish” at Modernista, going to a bigger shop like Hill Holliday wouldn’t be the answer. And suing a client to get paid isn’t ‘just wanting to make a point.’ It’s getting what you think you’re entitled to.

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. Gotta trust a man with a name like Cakebread.

  2. I always feel agencies get the sh#t end of the stick. When something goes wrong it is always the agency…not matter what…or no matter how crappy the product is. They always bend over backwards for a client, which granted they give the money, but at what cost.