Sirius seeks shop-again

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Sirius Satellite Radio, billed as a hot, $100 million account for a splashy new category two years ago when it came on the scene, is seeking its third agency in two years. But Sirius, which has yet to launch a national branding campaign, has lost its luster for some agencies that question its commitment to advertising in the wake of agency shifts and marketing false starts.

The subscription-based, digital-quality radio service, which launched nationally July 1, is conducting meetings with undisclosed agencies and hopes to make a decision on a shop in the next 30 to 45 days, said Mindy Kramer, senior director of corporate communications at Sirius.

The incumbent is Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, its agency since September when Sirius consolidated its account at McCann-Erickson WorldGroup. The business shifted from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.

McCann's relationship-marketing agency MRM Partners Worldwide, New York, has produced the only Sirius work to date in the form of a relationship-marketing and a direct-response TV spot with the tag "You'll never want to leave your car." MRM will remain Sirius' relationship-marketing agency and is not affected, Ms. Kramer said. McCann referred calls to Sirius.

Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, New York, which was a finalist in the initial review won by Goodby, was approached again, according to agency President Allison Burns. She said it's uncertain whether Fallon will participate, since she is skeptical about Sirius' commitment to advertising.

`different phase'

"We're in a different phase of our business now, and building a brand at this phase is different than where we were last year when we weren't out in the marketplace," Ms. Kramer said. Although she would not disclose spending for the assignment, she said it is "more than adequate to do a national brand campaign."

Sirius' launch followed that of rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings, whose service was available nationally in November, supported by a star-studded national TV and cinema ad campaign that broke last summer featuring David Bowie, B.B. King and Snoop Dogg. Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., handles XM. In January through May, XM spent $33 million on measured media, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, compared with Sirius' $574,000.

But Sirius' second-to-market status has its advantages, especially since XM did the heavy lifting involved in creating awareness for the category. Nearly half the U.S. population over the age of 12-47%-indicated they were aware of satellite radio services, according Matt Kleinschmit, senior research manager at market researcher Ipsos-Reid.

Sirius reported $33,000 in revenue for the three months ended March 31, up from zero, according to the most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The minimal revenue, on a $78.9 million net loss, reflects the fact that Sirius launched only in limited markets beginning in February. XM reported 137,000 subscribers through the end of the second quarter, on par with its expectations, while Sirius only has a few thousand, according to an industry observer who requested anonymity.

contributing: kate macarthur

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