WENNER MEDIA INVITES 5 AGENCIES INTO CLOSED REVIEW: 'ROLLING STONE' PUBLISHER WANTS A QUICK DECISION

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Much like a classic Rolling Stone party, Wenner Media's ad review is an invitation-only affair. And only five names are on the guest list.

Last week, the publishing company sent requests for proposals to Arnold Communications, Boston; Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis; GSD&M, Austin, Texas; Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston; and Mullen, Wenham, Mass.

Hill Holliday, Carmichael Lynch and Mullen are each units of Interpublic Group of Cos.

This week, Wenner VP-Group Publisher John Berg hopes to winnow that list to two to three and assign projects to each finalist in hopes of finding a winning campaign. The company parted ways with Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, on the $3 million to $5 million campaign last month.

'THE BEST POSSIBLE AGENCY'

"This whole process has been set up to get the best possible agency and do it in the fastest possible time given what the immediate needs are," Mr. Berg said.

Notably absent from Mr. Berg's list is his former employer, BBDO Worldwide -- or for that matter, any big New York agency. In April, after 12 years at BBDO, he left as exec VP-managing director in the New York office.

Now, he'll help his new employer develop individual branding campaigns for its three titles: Men's Journal, Rolling Stone and Us. The bulk of Wenner's spending is in business-to-business media, but the account is a draw for many agencies.

In 1984, when Wenner originally set out to update Rolling Stone's musty image, it sent 30 requests for proposals and received only two responses. A year later, Fallon McElligott developed the "Perception/Reality" campaign, a celebrated effort credited with grounding Rolling Stone in the cultural mainstream. Now, Madison Avenue sees the Wenner account as a glamorous one, with agencies allowed to flex their creative muscle.

Also, some suspect ad spending could rise substantially if Wenner increases Us' frequency from monthly to weekly and introduces a new Internet title.

Magazines typically use print and outdoor when trying to reach consumers, as well as point-of-purchase displays at newsstands. Mr. Berg said he is looking for ideas beyond that usual approach.

"I wouldn't limit it to just that," he said.

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