Apple SVP-marketing Phil Schiller told agency TBWAMedia Arts Lab in 2013 that it was not performing well and might be fired, according to court papers.

Schiller, Stefanowicz

Schiller’s e-mails about TBWA’s performance surfaced during a patent dispute trial in U.S. District Court involving Apple and Samsung. They were picked up by the Wall Street Journal and other media.

Apple is TBWA’s biggest account, employing an estimated 250 people. TBWA chairman Jean-Marie Dru was a featured speaker at the Arthur W. Page Spring Seminar last week. His book, Jeg>Lag, devotes its first 11 pages to Apple.

Samsung told the Court that the e-mails show that Samsung phones are successful because of their new features and clever marketing and not because they copied any Apple features.

An early 2013 e-mail to Apple CEO Tim Cook from Schiller said Apple “may need to start a search for a new agency” because “we are not getting what we need from them and haven’t been for a while.”

A series of “negative” commercials by Samsung had the slogan, “The Next Big Thing Is Already Here.” It made fun of Apple users and showed features of Samsung products that were not available in Apple’s iPhone.

The Jan. 28, 2013 WSJ published an article headlined “Has Apple Lost Its Cool to Samsung?” 

Schiller sent the article to Apple account head James Vincent with the note, “We have a lot of work to do to turn this around. Vincent wrote back, WSJ reported, that he believed Apple’s brand was slipping and there were parallels to 1997 when Apple supposedly “teetered near bankruptcy.”

Schiller told WSJ April 4 that TBWAMedia Arts Lab continues as Apple’s ad agency. Schiller told the Court the same day that it is not unusual for him to express dissatisfaction with TBWA.

The WSJ story quoted a “spokeswoman” for TBWA, a unit of Omnicom, as declining comment. Marianne Stefanowicz  is worldwide PR and communications director of TBWA and Lizzie Dewhurst is worldwide PR and communications manager.