BERLIN'S SHOP SEEKS ENTREE TO GM VIA OLYMPICS WORK: CLIENT NBC PROVIDES PATH TO AUTOMAKER

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Berlin, Cameron & Partners, New York, is believed to be developing ideas for General Motors Corp. that could lead to an assignment for the upstart shop from the auto giant.

Berlin Cameron's GM relationship came about through the agency's Olympics assignment for NBC; GM is an Olympics sponsor.

An executive close to GM said Berlin Cameron Chairman Andy Berlin was in Detroit recently to talk to GM about its Olympics sponsorship. The executive said Berlin Cameron's work would be broad-based, not tied to a single brand.

A GM spokeswoman said Mr. Berlin has had conversations with Philip Guarascio, VP-general manager of marketing and advertising at GM's North American Operations. But "there is no official assignment" at this point, she said.

She would not confirm that the conversations have been related to GM's Olympic sponsorship.

Mr. Berlin said his 7-month-old agency does not have a GM assignment and is not working directly or indirectly with the carmaker at this time.

"I know Phil [Guarascio] personally," he said. "Anybody in our position -- where we don't have an automotive conflict -- would love to work with GM. But unfortunately, that's not what we're doing now."

MORE WORK DOWN THE ROAD?

GM may at some point position the assignment as being tied to its Olympic pact with NBC, said another executive. But since it would be working with the automaker, Berlin Cameron could be in line for bigger assignments down the road.

GM's agency roster currently includes Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich.; Campbell-Ewald, Warren; and Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, as well as Leo Burnett USA, Chicago; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy; and Publicis Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco.

Berlin Cameron is the agency of record handling NBC's eight-year, $50 million to $60 million Olympic Games advertising.

Last summer, GM inked a 12-year, estimated $900 million sponsorship and marketing deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC. GM is the official domestic car and truck of the U.S. Olympic team through the 2008 Games.

The $600 million NBC portion of the deal gives GM exclusivity and media placement for the network's Olympics coverage in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.

OTHER CLIENT TIES TO GM

Mr. Berlin said two other agency clients, the National Basketball Association and Conde Nast Publications, also have business relationships with GM. Mr. Berlin is a close friend of Conde Nast President-CEO Steven T. Florio, who has a strong working relationship with Mr. Guarascio.

Mr. Berlin has auto experience. As chairman-CEO of the now-defunct Berlin, Wright & Cameron, he oversaw the Volkswagen of America account. DDB Needham Worldwide, where Mr. Berlin was president of the New York office, created that spinoff shop in 1993 in an attempt to keep VW's U.S. account, which it lost in late '94.

While at Fallon McElligott Berlin, New York, Mr. Berlin oversaw the BMW motorcycle account. He broke with Fallon McElligott late in 1997 to form his current agency.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.

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