By on March 28, 2011

There are two words guaranteed to cause heavy Maalox and Valium intake in the world of my (former) fellow Mad Men, and to increase billable hours at their shrinks: “Agency review.”

The client calls in the competition to present ideas. A lot of time and huge amounts of money are wasted spent in the beauty contest. Now all ad agencies of BMW U.S.A. are pummeled by anxiety attacks: BMW has called for the dreaded agency review.

Only five months after Omnicom’s GSD&M and BMW parted ways and Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners took over, BMW put the complete $160 million measured media account up for bid. “Below the line” as the say in the trade, there usually is much more money for an agency to make. According to a BMW press release, BMW of North America “will hold an agency review for the majority of the BMW brand creative work in America. The announcement comes as BMW is in the midst of a significant two-year model offensive.”

Everything is up for grabs: National creative, handled by Kirshenbaum, dealer advertising, produced by WPP’s Grey West, an even “BMW’s multi-cultural marketing efforts” which needed two agencies (probably for diversity reasons), Matlock in Atlanta, GA and Bromley in San Antonio, TX.  All agencies can look forward to a nervous summer as the pitch will last well into fall-

The search for new agencies is handled by yet another agency, Roth Observatory International. If you want to take part in the pitch, send an email to If you need a consultant for how to impress clients from Bavaria, send email to

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13 Comments on “BMW Wants New Mad Men...”

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    If the current agency (and BMW) had simply managed to find a way to keep TUDM first and foremost, neither would be in the current situation.

  • avatar

    If I recall the insider scoop, GSD&M essentially fired BMW because they were too prickly and difficult to work with. A friend of mine who was on the account, now an independent consultant, was let go by GSD&M after that “incident” and had some not entirely glowing things to say about BMW USA.

  • avatar

    Swapping horses “…in the midst of a significant two-year model offensive”  sounds highly unusual.  Maybe the current agency hasn’t been getting the job done (heard any criticism of BMW advertising lately?) or maybe there’s just a cultural clash between the agency and BMW management. Putting everything up for grabs under such pressurized conditions may well produce something better than BMW already had planned. People have a tendency to concentrate wonderfully when there’s a gun pointed at their heads.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Well if something better than this dishwasher detergent, I mean Fahrvergnügen, I mean Joy campaign comes out of it, then all is good.

  • avatar

    The dreaded Ad Agency firing. It reminds me of what my art teachers in tech school taught, and my reading of a book (Wheels? can’t remember) about how many people lose their jobs when an agency loses an account. Talk about job security – not! I’m glad I never got a job at an agency, although I tried, but the Vietnam war got in the way and the USAF rescued me! Whew! As far as requesting new ideas from others goes, yeah – lots of time, money and resources goes up in smoke. Many times it comes down to the “personality” of the agency and the slightest spin that puts an agency’s efforts over the top, but not a way to make a living in my book. Designing packaging can be stressful enough!

  • avatar

    I don’t know if this is agency or client driven, but I hope it’s BMW pulling the plug to be honest. I mean the superbowl ads were well made, they definitely hired the right people putting it together, but wtf were they thinking highlighting “made in america” and “diesel” in their two most expensive ad buys in the US market? Who exactly, in that universe of potential BMW buyers, is brought on board by those concepts? Mustang intenders?
    I thought it was incompetent to hinge it all on these ideas. They could have pushed price or product and done a lot more good for sales, and left the fringe ideas to generate good will a far less expensive push.

  • avatar

    The last agency review I went thru was complete joke. The winner was already picked, the fix was in, so the whole process was just a show to distract us minions from the fact that our employer was about to write a check so large it would cost all of us our jobs. However it turned out to be such a big check it took the whole company down just 8 months later. The results: a few crappy spots that aired during Good Morning America & many jobs lost. However the people pulling the strings behind the curtain made out like bandits by padding their 401Ks on both sides of the deal. But that’s what happens when the company that is loaning you considerable sums to keep your business afloat “recommends” you switch to their agency.

  • avatar

    Having worked on several auto accounts at agencies I know first-hand what it’s like to be fired by the client.  I agree with JMII’s comments about the winner being picked before the review is completed; that is usually the case.  From a statistical standpoint, only 16% of incumbent agencies retain the account.  Having said that though, IMHO I didn’t like the “Joy” campaign at all and didn’t feel it resonated that well with the brand’s owners and/or intenders.  The creative was good in some areas, but strategically I believe the agency was off the mark.  Perhaps it was driven by the client, I have no idea, but it looked to me to be a better fit with a “softer,” less iconic brand.  BMW deserves better.

  • avatar

    Guess there won’t be much “Joy” in this for BMW’s incumbent agency. That campaign sucked. BMW’s Superbowl ads were sleep inducing. Off with their heads!

  • avatar
    Sam P

    When BMW dumped “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, they started losing their way in the US market. The “Joy” campaign may have brought a few new sales in for BMW, but at the cost of long-time brand equity and awareness.
    BMW reliability has never been great, but the cars have made up for that by being a freakin’ blast to drive, and that’s why they’ve sold (well, that and snob appeal for all the faux-yuppies who buy the base 328i automatic with vinyl interior). Now we’re hearing talk of the smaller BMWs going front-drive. Joy, indeed.

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