SONY OPENS AGENCY SEARCH AMID HINTS OF CONSOLIDATION: Y&R MAY BE FAVORITE FOR $50 MIL U.S. ACC'T IN REVIEW

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Sony Electronics plans to pick a new agency by September, amid signs the consumer electronics giant intends to bring some unity to its disparate U.S. advertising.

John Briesch, president of the Consumer Audio-Video Products Group, last week told Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, it was terminating its relationship with the agency on its estimated $35 million to $50 million account. Sony is managing the review itself.

Y&R MAY BE FAVORITE

An executive close to Sony said the preliminary list of agencies that have been or will be contacted includes Ammirati Puris Lintas, BBDO Worldwide, DDB Needham Worldwide, McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Y&R Advertising, all New York.

The favorite would appear to be Y&R. Y&R and Tokyo-based Dentsu this year developed Sony Corp.'s first global brand campaign, using the tag "Do you dream in Sony?" There has been speculation Sony Corp. President Nobuyuki Idei may eventually want to move to one ad agency for all advertising globally.

CHANGING THE FOCUS

The Sony spokesman said the launch of that corporate campaign "basically changed the focus of [Sony Electronics] advertising."

The consumer-electronics group wants a shop that can promote its products while "lining up with" Y&R/Dentsu's campaign, he said.

DDB Needham also has strong ties to Sony, working with the company in 39 other countries.

SOME CONFLICTS

Except for Y&R, the agencies could have conflicts. Ammirati handles Thomson Consumer Electronics; BBDO has Pioneer Electronics; DDB Needham has Com- paq Computer Corp. and Universal Studios; McCann, a former Sony U.S. shop and the agency for Sony's movie studios, is the global agency for Motorola and Gateway.

Meanwhile, Sony Corp. of America -- Sony Electronics' parent -- is believed to be hearing a presentation this week on branding from Jeff DeJoseph, exec VP of J. Walter Thompson USA, New York. That news has led to speculation JWT could get into the Sony review.

A Sony Corp. spokeswoman denied that, saying Sony Electronics will conduct its review as "an autonomous, independent organization."

Sony has been through a string of agencies during the past decade, and the revered brand had a reputation as a difficult client with internal turf battles even before hiring Lowe.

In a statement, Lowe Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Lee Garfinkel said: "We've proven ourselves with our work for Sony. We've given them outstanding creative, very sound strategies and we've dedicated our most able and congenial people to their account. What more could we do?"

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona, Laura Petrecca, Laurel Wentz.

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