Samsung review: It wasn't California lottery, but almost

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Even though Samsung chose WPP Group last week for its $200 million global branding assignment, another estimated $200 million in product and country-specific work will stay where it is-the latest twist in one of the most cumbersome, drawn-out reviews ever to take place.

The consumer-electronics giant will meet with WPP's competitors on the review, Publicis Groupe and incumbent Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, this week to discuss their respective ongoing relationships on product and country-specific advertising.

That's good news especially for FCB, which along with Samsung's own Cheil Communications, handles Samsung North America advertising. Publicis , which handles a few Samsung local efforts in Asia, will meet with Samsung today in Paris, with FCB executives set to meet with them later this week in New York. WPP will meet with Samsung after Thanksgiving.

No decision has been made yet about which agency will handle the marketer's sponsorship of the Olympic Games in 2006 and 2008, which could be another $300 million in ad work during those years. Mac Jeffery, Cheil's senior VP-global PR director, said he does not know when an Olympics agency decision will be made; FCB and Cheil handled Samsung's work for the 2004 Games in Athens.

Work has already begun on a global branding campaign set to break in early 2005. Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, will be WPP's lead creative agency, working with J. Walter Thompson, also New York. Group M and MindShare will form a joint-venture with Cheil, Korea's biggest agency, to handle media. WPP's pitch effort was coordinated by JWT, London.

growth driver

Samsung has grown quickly from a one-dimensional memory chip manufacturer 10 years ago to a huge consumer-electronics brand ranked No. 21 by Interbrand. Mobile phones, where it has quickly gained a strong global position, are expected to be a growth driver.

Last week's decision comes after a marathon review made notable by the fact it was being pitched at the holding-company level. Samsung told agencies at the outset of the review that the assignment was for global branding; however, the agencies hoped or believed that the other half of the Samsung work would follow, as there was some confusion at the conclusion of the review last week about which agencies would hold which work.

Publicis and FCB only received the news about the global branding work going to WPP in an e-mail from Samsung on the afternoon of Nov. 17; hours after the official press release went out and a day after Advertising Age broke the news on its Web site (See QwikFIND aaq13r, aaq12z).

WPP Group was a strong contender from the start, especially Berlin Cameron, but it seemed to have a conflict with its ties to Samsung's rival, Korean conglomerate LG. WPP bought a 36% stake in LG Ad, LG's in-house ad agency and Korea's second largest shop, in 2002.

Incumbent FCB and Initiative Media were the underdogs. Retaining local and product work will be a boon to FCB's reputation even though revenue from the Samsung account-believed to be about $21 million-was not massive.

Agency executives describe a convoluted pitch, from the first meetings in April through the creative presentations in June. Hopes for a decision by mid-July faded as the review dragged on for another four months.

contributing: matthew creamer

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