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(Aug. 22, 2001) JOHANNESBURG -- TBWA Hunt Lascaris, the incumbent BMW agency in South Africa, is having to fight off competitive pitches from three other agencies for the launch campaign of the BMW Mini, believed to be scheduled for the first half of next year.

Presentations were made last week, but no appointment has yet been announced.

So far, no statement has been released by BMW, which is apparently anxious to keep its launch plans secret, but the other agencies in contention are Lowe Lintas Bull Calvert Pace, KingJames (a Cape Town independent), and Red Nail (part of the Leo Burnett Worldwide group).

Though the budget is expected to be fairly small -- speculation puts it between $1 million and $1.5 million -- the agencies involved are known to be desperately keen to win the prestige account.

"An agency is defined by its car account," one agency boss said. One agency is believed to have spent $60,000 on its pitch. None, except TBWA, has an existing automobile account.

TBWA Hunt Lascaris has handled the BMW account with considerable creative success for 15 years, but it's thought the client may now be looking for the kind of freshness a hungrier, younger agency can provide.

TBWA is by far the biggest of the contenders, ranked third in South Africa last year with revenues of $26 million. Lowe Lintas was ranked 12th and KingJames 23rd. Red Nail did not report separate figures from Leo Burnett Holdings, but it is a little larger than KingJames. -- Tony Koenderman

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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