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This week Wieden & Kennedy said thanks but no thanks to Starbucks.

Something that rarely happens in the ad biz; agency breaking with client.

And they fired them. Spectacularly. Kicked them to the curb. And then wrote a press release about it.


Apparently, Starbucks had asked all their roster shops to come up with some “business building ideas”. A common request, sure. But also a common wank.

Obviously Starbucks has been doing less-than-great lately, after opening “Starbucks inside of Starbucks inside of Starbucks”. And they needed help.

So they “engaged” and “partnered” with their agencies to try and get the best “business building” ideas.

Anything from ads, to late recipes, to barista babble.

“We just want good ideas”.

But, turns out, it was just a big waste of time.

Starbucks wasn’t interested in anything truly innovative, or “business building” or even “good”.

So Wieden & Kennedy, a current industry “hot shop” (that used-to-be industry “hottest shop”), said, essentially, “go fuck yourself”.

Good for them.

It’s not that clients shouldn’t call on their agencies in this way. They certainly should. Agencies have good ideas. They know the client’s business in a unique way. And they want the client to succeed.

But more often than not, it’s really a “prove you love me” exercise from the client. And a painful death for powerful ideas, which is beyond heartbreaking for any decent agency.

If more shops called out this time-wasting, morale-sucking bullshit, the entire industry would be better off. Because it would force clients to stop crying “wolf”… or, worse, “help!”

The only problem is there’s always some suckup shop out there willing to grab their ankles under the guise of touching their toes, and scoop up the abandoned business.

But that’s the market.

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