Saatchi withdraws from seat Euro pitch

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FRANKFURT/BARCELONA -- Saatchi & Saatchi has decided not to participate in the pitch for Spanish car maker SEAT's $156m European advertising account. Earlier this month the Volkswagen-owned subsidiary issued invitations to several unnamed agencies.

In a statement issued on the evening of September 11, Hubertus von Lobenstein, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, Frankfurt, explained the decision: "We regret this step because even prior to the presentation we could not find a joint strategy." Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, Frankfurt, had been a front-runner for the European SEAT business having impressed Volkswagen's management during a pitch for the $80m Volkswagen account in Germany, which DDB Needham Worldwide just barely hung onto.

Even before SEAT officially confirmed the review, rumors had been circulating in Germany that Saatchi's enthusiasm to participate had diminished because of a rumor that marketers at SEAT and Volkswagen were in disagreement over a future strategy for SEAT. Perhaps more importantly, Saatchi recently won the Toyota account in France. It already works for the Japanese car maker in Austria, Belgium, Greece, Czech Republic and Norway. In North America, Saatchi handles Toyota in the U.S. and Canada.

The SEAT account is currently split between Wilkens International, the old Ayer Europe network acquired earlier this year by FCB- holding company True North Communications, and Barcelona hot shop Casadevall Pedreno & PRG.

In late August, SEAT Marketing Director Ralf Berckhan said that both agencies would be asked to re-pitch for the business. However, there is a rumor that Wilkens has not been invited to repitch. Nobody at SEAT was available to comment because all of its senior advertising, marketing and press executives were attending the Frankfurt auto show.

There is a rumor that Frankfurt-based Bates Germany has been invited to pitch by SEAT's ad director, Adreas Ellenbeck, who once worked at Publicis with Bates Creative Director Gerd Neumann. Bates Germany recently lost the Honda account. The agency had not returned phone calls concerning the pitch at press time.

Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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