DDB NEEDHAM WINS $120M SONY EUROPE

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Sony Europe delivered an early Christmas present to DDB Needham-its prized $120 million pan-European business, Advertising Age has learned.

Neither Sony Europe, based in Cologne, nor Brenda Jones, the Sony U.K. head of advertising conducting the search, would confirm Friday the account, also hotly pursued by BBDO Worldwide, was awarded.

But agency executives close to the review in Europe and the U.S. confirmed the electronics giant late last week chose DDB Needham for the account, which could bill up to $180 million. The business will be handled out of London and Duesseldorf.

DDB Needham Germany Chairman Rolf Koerner said the agency hadn't been told it won. Anton Hildmann, chairman of BBDO Germany, the only remaining contender, said: "We are out of the Sony presentation and I am sure DDB Needham won the account."

The seven-month search started when Sony, known for using local shops, began looking for an agency to handle a unified communications program throughout Europe. Young & Rubicam Worldwide dropped out last month, and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London, and Ernst & Partner, Duesseldorf, made 11th-hour pitches.

It was unclear whether three lesser pan-European assignments would go to DDB Needham, which ironically dropped out of Sony's $50 million U.S. review last month, citing a conflict with Sharp Electronics.

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