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MacGregor Golf Co. is boosting its ad budget from under $2 million to as much as $15 million, with the chief beneficiary being new ad agency Howard, Merrell & Partners, Raleigh, N.C.

The assignment represents a comeback of sorts for Howard Merrell, which dropped out of a 1996 review for the golf equipment account conducted by MacGregor's previous owner, Amer Group, Helsinki. Amer sold the company to Apax Partners & Co., London, in February.


"We withdrew from the 1996 review because [Amer was] looking for an agency to launch advertising without doing any research," said Mike Ganey, senior VP-account director at Howard Merrell. "They were looking at short-term solutions."

After buying MacGregor, Apax officials contacted Howard Merrell.

"They told us they were impressed by the fact we withdrew from the account and with the reasons we gave for doing so," Mr. Ganey said. "The new management is committed to brand building, because they're in it for the long haul."

The assignment was made without a review.


The huge increase in ad spending is based on the belief the golf market will sustain growth over the next five years, Mr. Ganey said.

"Baby boomers are in their 50s, historically the age where golfers take up the game in earnest," he said. "Echo boomers, their kids, are in their mid-20s, when most people try the game for the first time."

The jump in ad spending also will put MacGregor on a level with competitors such as Callaway Golf Co., Taylor Made Golf Co. and Cobra Golf, each of which spent more than $13 million on advertising in 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The 1996 review, which included incumbent Pollak Levitt Chaiet, Atlanta; McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C.; and Ketchum Advertising, Pittsburgh, ended with the account being unassigned.

Mr. Ganey said new advertising for MacGregor probably will not break until March or April.

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