Infiniti, in a long-running review that lived up to its name, has selected Crispin Porter + Bogusky to lead its global creative efforts, the automaker has confirmed.
Crispin, a unit of MDC Partners, succeeds Omnicom Group's TBWA, which had handled the business since 1998.
Account revenue is estimated at $30 million and in term of media, the brand spends around $450 million annually, according to Infiniti's initial request for proposals.
In its final stages, the review became a battle among relatively small agencies, some of which have scant or no presence outside the U.S. For example, one contender, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, operates only in America and would have opened offices overseas to service the account.
Likewise, Crispin partnered with recently acquired sister shop The House to help meet Infiniti’s geographical needs. Crispin also plans to open a full-service office in Shanghai and an office for planners and account management staffers in Hong Kong, according to CEO Andrew Keller. The House, in turn, will offer "ground support" in other regions, Keller added.
In a statement reflecting on the selection, Infiniti vp of global marketing Vincent Gillet cited Crispin's "strength in leveraging multiple communications channels," adding, "We look forward to their fresh thinking as we continue growing Infiniti’s stature.”
Sources previously identified the other finalists as Anomaly and Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Infiniti executives briefed Anomaly but the shop exited before final presentations last month, sources said. And after those presentations, the execs narrowed their focus to Crispin and Goodby.
The win puts Crispin back into the car category—after its past years on Mini Cooper and Volkswagen—and is among the biggest in the agency's history, up there with the likes of Burger King and Microsoft.
"We couldn't be more fired up," Keller told Adweek. "We love working on car brands and we know the hard parts, fun parts and all that. You just sort of take all that and you've got to find joy in it. And the car industry has just evolved, grown and changed in all those years and we're fired up to be part of what it is now and to be in this premium segment."
Even before Infiniti, the luxury division of Nissan, hired Roth Observatory International to manage its search in the spring, the car company had talked to agencies interested in its business. In fact, sources said that those conversations began late last year.
The stakes are high for Infiniti, which has ambitious growth plans but whose U.S. sales lag far behind brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. Through the first nine months of 2015, Infiniti ranked seventh among luxury marks in the U.S., with unit sales of just 84,880, according to Autodata Corp. In the same period, market leader BMW sold 236,591 vehicles, slightly ahead of Mercedes at 233,210 units, and Lexus at 220,683 units, Autodata reported.
In its request for proposal, Infiniti said its goal was to be a "provocateur that owns the future of the premium car category by winning the hearts of young-minded premium consumers [through] seductive styling, attitude, exhilarating performance, emotive design and intuitive technology." Well, now the company has a new agency to take up that charge.
(This story has been updated.)