Harley Davidson Taps Three New Agencies

Starcom, Digitas and Victors & Spoils Will All Work on Iconic Motorcycle Marketer's Account

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Months after parting ways with Carmichael Lynch -- its agency of three decades -- motorcycle marketer Harley Davidson has picked a trio of new shops to handle its $11 million account, according to several industry executives.

The company is giving U.S. planning and buying duties to Publicis Groupe's Starcom after a shootout against other shops, executives said, and has tapped Starcom sibling Digitas for digital work. And though Harley insisted it would not name a new creative agency when it split from Carmichael Lynch, it now has designated a new shop to help it with creative ideas: Victors & Spoils.

These agencies either could not be immediately reached or referred calls to Harley. A spokesman for the marketer said, "We have nothing official to announce at this point and don't comment on rumors."

The agencies will replace Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned Carmichael Lynch, which had served as Harley Davidson's creative agency of record for the past 30 years and handled media as well. That relationship ended this August when, in a bit of role reversal, Harley Davidson was dumped by Carmichael Lynch. At the time of the split, agency President Doug Spong told Ad Age, "You can't be in a relationship for 31 years and not have some differences. We're very grateful for such a long and glorious time together, but we just feel like we've taken that brand as far as we can go."

Mark-Hans Richer, Harley's chief marketing officer since 2007, had said of the breakup: "Our strategies have been moving away from a singular consumer target and a one-size-fits-all agency solution. Rather than accept this new reality, CL chose a different path, and we respect that."

The company had also said it was not going to initiate a search for a new creative shop but would continue to work with a number of roster shops including VSA Partners in Chicago and McCann Erickson in the U.K.

That was before Boulder-based newcomer Victors & Spoils, announced on its blog in September that it had put out a brief to its crowd of creatives to come up with ideas for the Harley brand. It was a risky move that appears to have paid off, given it led to V&S being named to Harley's agency roster.

For Starcom, the win is the third in the span of a month. After flying below the radar for nearly a year, Starcom has been making headlines on a consistent basis for the past couple of weeks with some high-profile new business wins and executive moves. Earlier this month, the agency won Darden Restaurants' Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse media accounts, totaling nearly $300 million, and Best Buy consolidated its nearly $300 million media planning and buying account with the agency.

On the executive front, the shop named Chris Boothe, previously a president at Starcom, its new chief operating officer. Mike Rosen, who previously oversaw the GM business, was named president-director of activation and will oversee the ad spending of all clients. The agency replaced Mr. Rosen on the GM business with Jon Stimmel, a former Unilever executive who currently works on the Kraft Foods business at Starcom sibling shop MediaVest.

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh, Kunur Patel