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Super Bowl Advertiser Cars.com Launches Creative Agency Review

DDB Chicago Has Worked with Auto-Shopping Site for More Than a Decade

By Published on .

After more than 10 years of working with Omnicom Group's DDB in Chicago, Cars.com is considering new agency options.

A request-for-proposal document sent to various creative shops this week said that the site is looking to grow its traffic and revenue. To achieve its goals over the next five years, Cars.com is seeking an agency that can help raise its brand profile and build consumer trust.

"We can confirm that Cars.com has released an RFP to search for a creative advertising agency to serve as the lead creative agency in our integrated marketing mix," said a Cars.com spokesman. "The RFP should be in no way an indication of dissatisfaction with the tremendous work DDB, Chicago, has performed for us for more than a decade. As we continue to grow, our needs as an organization continue to evolve, and this decision is the next logical step in the growth of our integrated marketing programs."

DDB, Chicago, has been invited to participate in the pitch.

For the agency, which is one of the most important offices in the global DDB network, the potential loss of Cars.com comes as the shop attempts a turnaround under new CEO Peter McGuinness. Since joining DDB from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham last summer, Mr. McGuinness has been focused on rejiggering talent and trying to make the shop more competitive on the new-business circuit. It's currently in the finals of a pitch for Hewlett-Packard.

"We are very proud of the award-winning, business-building work we've created over the years and the momentum its generated helping bring Cars.com to a national stage," said Mr. McGuinness in a statement. "In particular we're proud the new campaign that 's had early traction and buzz. We're appreciative of the partnership we've shared for the last 11 years and look forward to seeing continued success for Cars.com. Business dynamics change, clients change and things change, which prompts companies to see what else is out there. It's natural, and I understand and respect it."

The Cars.com spokesman added that regardless of the outcome of the RFP process, it plans to continue working with OMD for media-buying duties, MEA for digital, and Avenue for its b-to-b marketing efforts.

A decision is expected by June, but DDB's current campaign will run through the remainder of 2012.

According to Kantar, Cars.com spent a total of $29 million on domestic measured media in 2011, up from $26 million in 2010. A sizable part of that budget is devoted to advertising in the Super Bowl each year.

Cars.com is one of the many dot-coms that have been attracted to the Big Game. This year's spot was bizarre but managed to break through the clutter and become one of the better-liked ads during the event. The ad, which depicted a man with two talking heads shopping in a car dealership, was also tied to a charity effort.

The marketer said it has not yet completed its annual business planning process for 2013, and so has yet to make a decision about whether it will participate in the Super Bowl again next year.

Contributing: Maureen Morrison

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