DDB WINS SUBARU AD ACCOUNT

Beats Out Three Competitors

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Subaru of America today said Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York, has won the automaker's creative and media advertising account.

DDB bested three other agencies for the

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account, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin, Richmond, Va., and two New York shops, WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell and Interpublic's McCann Erickson. Subaru spent $137 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

The incumbents
Interpublic's TM, Dallas, was the creative incumbent and sibling Universal McCann, New York, was the media incumbent.

The search consultant was AAR Partners, New York.

"As we continue to innovate and expand our product lineup in the U.S. market, we need to communicate the Subaru brand promise in a way that is relevant, memorable and differentiated in the marketplace," Fred Adcock, Subaru's executive vice presidentr, said in a statement.

DDB's chairman and chief creative officer, Lee Garfinkel, and managing director, Peter Hempel, are among those on the agency's new Subaru team. Mr. Garfinkel's auto experience includes Mercedes-Benz and GMC trucks. He worked on Subaru in the early 1980s as a junior copywriter with Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver.

News of the review leaked in April. Subaru had responded by saying it was "merely looking at what the market has to offer" for all aspects of its business. At the time the automaker said its Japanese parent, Fuji Heavy Industries, had initiated the brand's move upmarket, but not necessarily to change agencies as well.

Changing shortlists
The review took a few strange twists. At the start of its own review, Kia Motors America named AAR Partners, New York, as its search consultant, shortly after Subaru did, creating an instant conflict of interest. Kia later dropped AAR. Then, AAR released a list of three finalists in late July, but Subaru quickly rescinded the list. A week later a new list of five was released. The following day Omnicom's GSD&M, in Austin, Texas, dropped out of the review.

Subaru wants to build annual U.S. sales 250,000 units by 2006 vs. 186,000 in 2003. This year it launched the all-new 2005 Legacy and Outback. But the marketer has high hopes for its largest vehicle yet, a still unnamed seven-seat sport utility vehicle that arrives next year. Subaru said earlier this year it doesn't consider the move upscale, but rather one of "premium pricing." The new SUV will cost between $30,000 and $37,000, the marketer said.

The prices of Subaru vehicles, advertised early on as "inexpensive and built to stay that way," have climbed steadily for years, with loaded models already hovering around $30,000.

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