Mercedes’ Smart U.S.A. Asks AAR To Prepare Search

NEW YORK Smart U.S.A. has hired New York consultancy AAR Partners to lay the groundwork for a search for agencies to handle the U.S. introduction of the Smart car in 2006, sources said. AAR, which did not return calls, has circulated a “blind” request for information that asks about experience in the retail and automotive categories, as well as efforts to introduce brands. Sources said the information will be used to compile a long list of agencies that broadly fit Smart’s needs. Plans call for hiring more than one shop, since Smart will need help with not only traditional ads but also direct marketing, customer relationship management and media, said client vp Dave Schembri. Smart, a division of DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. in Montvale, N.J., is about 60 days from contacting shops, Schembri said.

Mediaedge:cia Snares $480 Mil. Paramount Media Account

LOS ANGELES Paramount Pictures has awarded its $480 million media planning and buying business to WPP’s Mediaedge:cia, a client rep confirmed. The shop prevailed against IPG’s Initiative, Omnicom’s PHD and incumbent Publicis’ MediaVest, all in New York. The shops declined comment. Paramount executives were not available for comment.

Honda Touts Real-Time Traffic Reports in $60. Mil. RL Launch

NEW YORK Honda will pitch the technology-laden, redesigned 2005 Acura RL as a weapon against traffic in an estimated $60 million campaign breaking this week. The effort spotlights the AcuraLink service, a satellite-based real-time traffic-monitoring system. In one spot, a forlorn commuter waits for a morning-show crew to start talking traffic. Cut to another commuter in an RL, taking a sun-dappled high road overlooking a six-lane log-jam. Tagline: “The road will never be the same.” The main motifs for the effort, via RPA in Santa Monica, Calif., are images of the car whipping down the Oregon coast, rendering the median stripes airborne. The client said spending will be comparable to last year’s TL launch, a nearly $60 million effort, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Endeavor’s Dowley in Talks With Holding Companies

NEW YORK Former IPG executive Mark Dowley is in ongoing talks with Omnicom, WPP, IPG and other, unidentified companies about a possible venture that would involve Endeavor, the talent agency in which he owns a stake, sources said. Dowley left IPG in October 2003 when the company dismantled the Sports & Entertainment Group he ran. He now runs Endeavor’s New York office, which has worked with America Online and does entertainment- marketing consulting for American Express. Dowley was unavailable for comment. An AmEx representative declined comment.

Novartis Mulls Options After Shop Presentations

NEW YORK Novartis is expected to shift or consolidate its brands at fewer agencies after several days of meetings with roster and non-roster shops last month, sources said. The meetings, which took place two weeks ago at the Soho Grand in New York, involved agencies that craft DTC ads as well as those that target doctors, said sources. Each shop got two hours to present credentials and case histories to about 40 Novartis execs from the U.S. and Switzerland, attendees said. Participants included roster shops Deutsch and McCann Erickson, both IPG agencies, and Omnicom’s Merkley + Partners, DDB and Cline, Davis & Mann, and non-roster shop Publicis’ Saatchi & Saatchi, all in New York, said sources. Novartis did not return calls. Sources said a decision is due this month. Novartis spent more than $450 million on ads last year, per Nielsen Monitor Plus.

Merkley Takes $25 Mil. Ferrero Account After 10-Month Chase

NEW YORK Omnicom’s Merkley + Partners has landed creative duties on Ferrero U.S.A.’s estimated $25 million account after a review that began in December, the Somerset, N.J., client confirmed. The other finalist was Publicis’ The Kaplan Thaler Group in New York, said sources. Merkley’s first work, a campaign for Ferrero Rocher chocolate, is expected to break in November. Other Ferrero brands include Tic Tac, Mon Cheri and Raffaello. Media duties landed at Zenith Media in March, also after a review. The creative incumbent, IPG’s McCann Erickson in New York, did not participate in the review, which was managed by Select Resources International in Santa Monica, Calif.

Dunkin’ Donuts, Eight O’Clock Position Coffee as Cure-All

NEW YORK As Starbucks hikes its prices, rival Dunkin’ Donuts will try to persuade consumers to buy its espresso drinks in a $25 million print and TV campaign. Spots by IPG’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston break this week and show folks whose bad days are saved by a Hot Latte, “the perfect afternoon comeback.” Eight O’Clock coffee’s first national TV effort, via Publicis’ The Kaplan Thaler Group in New York, presents the coffee as a cure for feeling a bit off. In one spot, basketball pro Diana Taurasi’s shot is off target until she enjoys her first sip. Tagline: “Wake up. It’s Eight O’Clock.” A client rep said the company is tripling last year’s ad budget, about $1 million in 2003, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

FCB’s Jamaica Campaign Aims To Show Isle’s Quirky Side

NEW YORK A new campaign for Jamaica Tourist Board from IPG’s Foote Cone & Belding in New York breaks this month in November magazines, the agency said. The campaign, tagged, “Once you go, you know,” will run through April. The new line augments the continuing “One love” theme but highlights the island’s quirkiness. One ad describes Jamaica as a “dichotomy wrapped in a paradox, smothered in irony, which would probably go great with a Red Stripe.” The client spent $15 million on ads in 2003, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Chicken of the Sea To Salvage Jingle, Leverage Nostalgia

NEW YORK Chicken of the Sea is readying a $20 million campaign for January that will address health concerns and may include the brand’s first TV spots in years. The ads, still in development via The Marketing Partners in Irvine, Calif., will focus on the brand’s new, “chunkier” light tuna. One of the most commonly eaten fish, tuna is notably low in mercury. Creative will “integrate the brand equity with a pop-culture appeal and we’ll leverage the nostalgia of the Chicken of the Sea jingle,” as well as the mermaid, said Don George, vp of marketing.