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Shootout: Nokia starts hunt for new creative shop

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Nokia, the world's largest handset marketer, has thrown its creative account for North America into review and this week will issue requests for proposals.

Nokia spent $260 million on advertising worldwide and in the U.S. spent $36.8 million in measured media in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Independent Richards Group, Dallas, the incumbent on the account, is not defending, said executives close to the marketer. Media planning and buying are currently handled by Richards, too, but it's not known whether that business will be included on the RFP.

Richards and Nokia didn't return calls for comment at press time.

Agencies invited to pitch include independents Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and Doner, Southfield, Mich., Publicis Groupe's Fallon, Minneapolis; Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago and Dallas, and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. All the agencies refused to comment.

RFPs will be due back in two weeks for a semi-finalist cut and meetings. Nokia will then name finalists to prepare an assignment. A decision is expected in January.

Nokia last month denied that the business was in review despite speculation that Matt Wisk, the former VP-marketing for North and South America, had tapped DDB for a corporate branding campaign before he left the company to join Herba-life. He has been succeeded by Jo Harlow, formerly VP-worldwide marketing operations at Reebok.

low profile

While the Finnish marketer controls 35% of the global handset market, Nokia has kept a relatively low marketing profile despite an onslaught of new competitors. Nokia's share is down slightly from the previous quarter, according to a study released this month from research firm IDC, while competitors Motorola, Samsung Electronics Co. and Siemens increased share.

During the fourth quarter of 2002, rival Motorola eclipsed Nokia in U.S. unit shipments. This past summer, Nokia made a $35 million measured media push to promote nearly a dozen new phones loaded with a variety of gaming, music and other features.

Nokia's advertising globally is handled by Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, which in early October launched a global TV campaign. Executives at Grey were unavailable for comment on whether they would participate in the review.

Recently Nokia executives detailed plans to make the company a major player in the wave of convergence, and last month unveiled the 7700 model that includes a Web browser with touch screen, digital camera, FM radio and other functions now common in personal digital assistants.

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