Agency Is off Account 11 Months After Retaining It in a Review

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CHICAGO ( -- Racing league Nascar and its advertising agency of three years, WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, Chicago are parting ways, the companies said today.

Martin Agency
Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., now is getting the green light to

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handle the account, estimated to be $20 million, according to executives close to the situation.

"Y&R has done terrific work for us for the past three years," a Nascar executive said, adding, "We just felt that after three great years it probably made good sense for us to look at some new thinking that comes from a different perspective."

Decrease in spending
"They don't want to spend on production," said Mark Figliulo, Y&R's chief creative officer. Three years ago, the account spending was estimated to be between $25 million to $35 million. Mr. Figliulo said Nascar likely will use footage from racing events for ads in the future.

But the NASCAR executive disputed that it was a spending issue: "We feel that our advertising has been as good as any in sports and speaks very effectively to both our casual and hard-core fan base. We also believe it demonstrates our commitment to compelling quality advertising, and that commitment has not changed."

Y&R last September successfully defended the account in a review despite having created award-winning work for Nascar. According to an executive familiar with the pitch, Martin Agency came in second in that review, which also included Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago.

Bronze lion, Effie
Y&R won a bronze Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival and an Effie for its "How bad have you got it?" campaign.

This is the second account to leave Y&R in a month. Two weeks ago, the agency was cut from the review for the $19 million Jim Beam Brands account, which Y&R was defending. Mr. Figliulo said the two account losses won't affect the agency's bottom line because of two recent wins: the bulk of the $660 million Sears, Roebuck & Co. account, following a shootout with sibling Ogilvy & Mather, and the $20 million Orbitz account.

'A bummer'
Still, he called the Nascar parting a "bummer" because of its prestige as a roster addition and the agency's relationship with Roger VanDerSnick, Nascar's director of brand marketing.

"We're in really good shape," he said. "A big win like Sears offsets minor losses and Nascar was a break-even account. Now, we're doing more pitches."

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