BlackBerry Hunts for New U.S. Creative Shop, Faces Pressure From Android, IPhone

Smartphone Maker Parts Ways With Leo Burnett on $200 Million Account

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- BlackBerry parent Research in Motion and Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett are parting ways as the smartphone maker reaches out to creative agencies at various holding companies to work on the company's nearly $200 million advertising account, industry executives say.

"We have decided not to participate in Blackberry's U.S. creative review, as we are instead moving forward with and growing our Samsung client partnership," representatives for Leo Burnett said in a statement. RIM did not immediately return a request for comment.

The search for new creative resources isn't expected to affect RIM's relationship with its lead media shop, Publicis' Starcom, or other agencies on its roster, such as independent 72andSunny. According to Kantar Media, RIM spent $183 million on U.S. media for the first nine months of 2010 -- a big jump over the $111 million it spent for all of 2009.

While the Canadian handset manufacturer still leads in U.S. smartphone market share, RIM has been steadily ceding percentage points over the past year to Apple and, especially now, Google's Android. For its last big release and first touchscreen, BlackBerry Torch, it leaned heavily on AT&T, the exclusive wireless carrier, for marketing support.

That it's now canvassing adland for fresh creative ideas is a sign that RIM is hoping to step up its marketing activity in the hopes of fending off competition.

At Ad Age's Digital Conference in April, RIM Marketing VP Brian Wallace made no apologies about being a demanding client for agencies. Unlike many marketers, the phone maker delivers a single brief to all agencies -- PR, social, digital, creative, media, etc. -- simultaneously, and challenges them to come up with a solution together. Additionally, agencies are compensated on how well they collaborate with one another.

See a video of Mr. Wallace speaking at the event about his agency structure, data dashboards and progressive media partnerships.

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Contributing: Michael Bush, Kunur Patel

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