BMW Finally Picks Media Agency for Dealer Groups: Universal McCann

Win Over GSD&M Idea City Helps End Long New-Business Drought

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DETROIT ( -- BMW of North America tapped Universal McCann, New York, as the media planner and buyer for its national and regional dealer groups, helping end a long new-business drought for the Interpublic Group-owned agency.

BMW spends some $150 million in U.S. measured media annually.
BMW spends some $150 million in U.S. measured media annually. Credit: BMW
The incumbent, Omnicom Group's GSD&M Idea City, Chicago, was one of two finalists for the account. The agency's media contract with BMW expires at the end of June, when Universal McCann will start handling the business, a BMW spokesman told Advertising Age.

BMW started the review last September and narrowed the list of four finalists to two months ago. The decision took so long because it was trying to get the most advantageous financial deal amid the global auto industry's worst slump in decades, according to industry execs close to the situation.

Financial efficiencies were a consideration but not the only one, the BMW spokesman said. "We wanted to make sure whoever had our account has a very good understanding of our brand and how best to talk to people -- that's crucial."

The company said the media review was part of a regular process put in place by its parent company, Germany's BMW AG, "designed to maximize efficiencies and increase the effectiveness of BMW's media-planning and -buying spend worldwide." The automaker spends some $150 million in U.S. measured media annually.

Jack Pitney, VP-marketing of BMW in North America, said Universal McCann "has a solid reputation for excellence, and we look forward to a very productive relationship."

BMW's other agencies
GSD&M, Austin, Texas, which won BMW's creative account in fall 2005 and was awarded the media account without a review a few months later, will keep the brand's national creative account. Two weeks ago, the agency won a jump ball to be BMW's lead global creative agency (and this week was awarded the creative account of retailer Ace Hardware as well).

WPP's Grey West, San Francisco, won BMW's regional-dealer-group creative account last fall.

For Universal McCann, the win is a coup. With no major news coming out of the agency other than layoffs -- the agency laid off 8% of its U.S. staff in March -- and the hiring of Jacki Kelley as president of its North American division, this win is significant on two levels. First, it marks the first major new business for the agency since Matt Seiler took over as global CEO last July. And second, the win -- combined with a recent $40 million Dyson account win earlier this month, according to executives close to the matter -- signals that the agency may finally be getting itself on track.

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Michael Bush contributed to this report.

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