The Publicis Groupe creative shop bested its London-based siblings Bartle Bogle Hegarty and incumbent Saatchi & Saatchi, which was cut from the review late last week. Independent Wieden & Kennedy and Omnicom Group's Abbot Mead Vickers, London, earlier pitched the business. (Last month, Omnicom's OMD won the consolidated $500 million Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Pictures and Sony Consumer Electronics media buying business across Europe.)
Saatchi creative will run through the first quarter of 2003, with new work from Fallon breaking in the beginning of the second quarter.
Sony becomes the largest
Mark Goldstein, chief marketing officer of Fallon Worldwide, called the win a "defining moment" for the London office.
"[Sony] could have hired an agency with offices in every one of Sony's 21 countries, but that's not where [Fallon's] leverage was," he said. "The leverage was in a really powerful consumer insight that led to a great strategy that led to really, really disarming creative work."
A central challenge agencies needed to address in the pitch was how to defend Sony's status as a global consumer electronics powerhouse against encroachment by other electronics companies in recent years.
"How do you continue or reinforce that brand strength when you've got competitors you never competed with before, like Siemens, Nokia and Microsoft," Mr. Goldstein said. "There are software companies making portable music devices. How do they maintain their lead in those vertical categories where they're not No. 1 and what's it going to take to be No. 1?"
The agency must also try to bolster the brand in Eastern Europe, a region Sony entered only after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"The brand doesn't have the rich history in Poland and Slovakia and all the other places [there] that it has in Italy, France and the U.K.," Mr. Goldstein said.
Beyond translating creative
He wouldn't reveal what idea the agency presented, but said it was based on a "universal truth" that "goes far beyond just translating one set of creative into multiple languages."
While that well-planned idea swayed Sony in the end, some quick-thinking on Fallon's part helped most likely its cause during the agency's first presentation to Sony executives in Berlin.
Mr. Goldstein said he and his pitch team used a Sony Vaio computer and he made sure he had a German electrical adapter, which he tested a half hour prior to the meeting. When two hours later the team reached the second-to-last slide, a sign popped up on the screen saying only 10% of power remained and to plug in the computer. The team realized they hadn't fully inserted the plug and the computer had been running on the batteries. What could have been a disasterous planning oversight, "we turned it into a plug for how great the computer was for running memory intense presentations on batteries alone," Mr. Goldstein said.