VW'S SKODA REVIEWS EUROPEAN ACCOUNT

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(Aug. 28, 2001) PRAGUE -- Skoda, the Czech auto brand owned by Volkswagen, has initiated a pitch for its entire European Skoda budget, which Grey Worldwide's Prague office handles except for the launch of the up-market Skoda Superb, formerly known as the Montreux.

Skoda General Manager Detlev Schmidt, who joined the carmaker six months ago, initiated the pitch. Despite soaring sales for the value brand, Mr. Schmidt felt Skoda's advertising should have a more creative approach.

Wolfsburg-based selection consultancy Ten Hovel Communication is working with Skoda on the review. Ten Hovel has screened several presentations for Volkswagen in the past year.

Skoda plans to invite three network agencies to pitch, but they are hard to come by because most of the big networks already handle a car account.

Incumbent Grey Global group's Grey Worldwide and Interpublic Group of Cos.' FCB, Frankfurt, which last year lost the $1 billion global Chrysler Group account, have been asked to pitch. Ad Age Global has learned a third agency has received an invitation but has not yet agreed to compete.

A decision is expected around Dec. 1.

In July, Skoda appointed Leagas Delaney, Hamburg, to handle the pan-European launch business for what is now known as the Skoda Superb. Also pitching were FCB; Dorland, Berlin; DDB Worldwide-owned Heye & Partner, Berlin; Boening & Haube, Hamburg and Grey.

Skoda wanted a high-powered creative campaign for this executive-sized car, which competes at the top end of the upper medium segment. It has been more than 80 years since Skoda first produced cars in this segment, with the Superb brand first used in 1934 for one of its large saloon cars.

Grey Worldwide will adapt Leagas Delaney's Superb ads as the network agency. But Leagas Delaney is not involved in the new presentation because the agency lacks a large international network.

Insiders say FCB has a good chance to grab the European Skoda account because it was the other finalist in July's Superb pitch.

However, parent VW took everyone by surprise in April when it chose Grabarz & Partner, an independent Hamburg agency with a mere 48 people, to handle its entry into the upper-luxury end of the market with the introduction of the D1. Ten Hovel also advised on that pitch. -- Dagmar Mussey and Bill Britt

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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