Lowe links with German hot shop to keep GM happy

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HAMBURG -- Last November DDB Needham Worldwide's German operation virtually turned itself into a new agency by changing top management in a successful effort to hold onto Volkswagen's $80 million account in Germany. Now its Lowe & Partners Worldwide's turn to remake itself to keep General Motors Corp. happy in Germany.

GM's German subsidiary Adam Opel has moved its advertising account in Germany (except Astra) from Lowe & Partners, Frankfurt, to the five- month-old Hoffmann & Schnakenberg, Hamburg, which is being renamed Lowe Hoffmann & Schnakenberg. Lowe will hold a minority stake in the agency. The Hamburg-based partnership will operate alongside Lowe's established agencies in Frankfurt and Duesseldorf. Opel's 1996 advertising budget for Germany was $145 million.

The new agency was set up by Heinrich Hoffman, who worked on the Opel account as creative director for Lowe & Partners, Frankfurt, for two years in the early 1990s. He left the agency to become creative director at Bates, Frankfurt, and later at Lesch & Frei. Mr. Hoffman started his new agency with Olaf Schnakenberg, one of the founders of what is now KNSK/ BBDO, Hamburg.

GM's ad agency in Germany and the U.K. is Lowe, while McCann-Erickson Worldwide handles the account in the rest of Europe. In a blow to both agencies, GM last December assigned a $60 million account to relaunch the Astra in Europe to a small London agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe. Hoffmann & Schnakenberg was asked to pitch for that account.

Ulrich Seiffert, the manager for marketing communications for Opel in Germany, says that a new direction was needed. "Our ads have been successful in the past, but our rivals have become increasingly creative too. We felt that we at Opel needed more creative stimulus and felt that the new Hamburg agency could provide it."

Mr. Seiffert says no decision has been made yet on which agency will handle Astra in Germany.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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