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Audi Picks North Carolina-based Advertising Agency

July 27, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Audi of America Inc. picked the longshot Tuesday in the three-way fight for its estimated $30 million advertising account, selecting McKinney & Silver as its new agency.

The agency from Raleigh, N.C., had been selected in the spring as one of seven candidates for the job but failed to make a mid-May cut when the luxury carmaker narrowed the field to three finalists.

McKinney was invited back into the competition, however, a few days later when one of the original finalists, Ammirati & Puris of New York, withdrew.

The other two finalist agencies were Carmichael Lynch of Minneapolis and Hill, Holliday, Connors Cosmopulos of Boston, onetime agency for Infiniti cars.

″We saw three very strong presentations.″ Gerd Klauss, vice president in charge of Audi of America, said in a statement. ″But McKinney & Silver demonstrated particularly impressive insights into the soul of our company, products and the Audi consumer.″

″We are as pleased as we could be,″ said Robert Doherty, president and chief executive of McKinney & Silver.

The agency’s biggest account is Royal Caribbean Cruises at about $45 million, and it handled total ad billings of about $102 million last year.

Audi’s most recent television ad, which is off the air, featured a businesswoman travelling among meetings, over the Cole Porter song, ″Night and Day.″ The ad’s slogan was ″To drive it is to take control.″

Audi, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., cut ties to its agency of 24 years, DDB Needham Chicago, in March.

The move was somewhat surprising because Audi has just posted a 20 percent sales increase to 14,756 for 1992, its first year-to-year increase since sales peaked at 74,061 in 1985.

In 1986, the importer was stung by allegations later shown to be unfounded that its cars were prone to sudden acceleration.

More recently, Audi has had to compete with luxury imports from Japan as well as from Europe where its parent Volkswagen AG is based.

Audi sales for the first half of this year were off 1.3 percent at 6,689.

Deborah Woytenko, marketing communication mnanager for Audi, said a 15- person selection committee including dealers heard presentations of strategy from all three agencies last week. McKinney was the consensus choice.

She said the decision was based on a combination of factors but the committee felt the agency ″best understood our company as a person.″

″If we expect them to produce advertising that strikes at the heart of our costomers, they had to get close to our heart and what makes us tick. McKinney & Silver does that best,″ she said.

She said she doesn’t expect the agency to have a new campaign on the air until early 1994.

Doherty said his agency had given up hope on being Audi’s agency after being eliminated from the finalist list in mid-May.

″We couldn’t have been more surprised by the call we got three days later″ inviting the agency back into the hunt, he said.

He said while his agency was cast as the dark horse in the competition for the job, he felt ″there are no dark horses in the finals. It is the one time when fate is in your own hands.″

Smaller agencies have been having success competting against bigger shops based in the metropolitan centers for car accounts lately.

The most recent example was Mullen Advertising’s win in February of the $80 million BMW account. Mullen was a relatively unknown agency based near Boston.