DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Audi of America started a review for its national creative account, pitting incumbent McKinney, Raleigh, N.C., against three other shops.
The three invited to pitch, a spokesman for Audi told Advertising Age, are Publicis Groupe's Fallon, Minneapolis; Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York; and independent Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco.
New CMO holds meetings
Scott Keogh, who arrived in May as Audi of America's first chief marketing officer from Mercedes-Benz USA, is orchestrating the move, the spokesman said. Mr. Keogh held the initial meetings this week with officials from the agencies in Europe, where he is attending the Paris Auto Show.
Bartle Bogle, London, handles Audi U.K.'s account. Fallon handled BMW of North America's account for a decade before declining to defend the business in a 2005 review. Venables Bell participated in BMW's review and Mr. Keogh knows that shop -- it was a finalist in Mercedes-Benz USA's Smart pitch a few years ago that he oversaw.
"We have a challenge to get awareness up and we wanted to look and see if there's any fresh ideas out there," said the spokesman. "McKinney has as much opportunity for the business as the others."
McKinney referred calls to the client.
Media buying, planning not affected
MediaCom handles Audi of America's media buying and planning, which is not part of the pitch. Audi of America spends some $70 million in measured media annually.
McKinney won the Audi account -- its biggest -- in 1993. It had a scare on the business a few years ago when then-marketing director Michael Lembke, a German-born engineer, scheduled meetings with at least three agencies during the 2004 Detroit auto show.
After word leaked that the carmaker was meeting with several shops, Audi hastily moved to quash talk of a review. It maintained that Mr. Lembke innocently set up the sessions as a best-practices crosscheck. The company also maintained the meetings never actually took place and that the account was staying put at McKinney.
But Advertising Age reported in January 2004 that people familiar with the matter insisted Audi did see presentations from three agencies and more were on the way when the automaker changed its plans Jan. 2. One person said McKinney had already pitched, along with independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and Bartle Bogle, New York.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Audi was reviewing media planning as well as the creative. The automaker's media services are not part of this review.