Nikon Melville, N.Y.

Budget: $20 million
Decision Date: February
Incumbent: Fallon, Minneapolis

MARKET SITUATION
Digital-camera sales have exploded during the past four years, from $928 million in 1999 to $3.8 billion last year, according to research firm The NPD Group. Nikon is looking to grab a bigger share of that market with its 6-year-old Coolpix camera line. As competition increases from more nontraditional rivals (such as Hewlett-Packard and Sony), Nikon stands at No. 8 with a 5-6 percent market share, according to NPD. (Sony leads the digital market category with a 21 percent share.) Since Nikon introduced its Coolpix line in 1997, the overall ad budget has increased from $6 million in 1998 to nearly $20 million last year as the company has become more consumer focused. Long considered a brand for enthusiast and professional photographers, it is striving to lure novices. Nikon Inc., a division of Tokyo-based Nikon Corp., makes and markets an array of business imaging products, from microscopes to surveying equipment, work for which will likely be part of the winning agency’s assignment. Overall, sales declined last year to $3.6 billion from $3.8 billion in 2001.

THE SCOOP
Nikon’s conservative, retail- oriented ad approach clashed with Fallon’s desire to craft brand-image ads. The client wanted to use an actor in its ads; the agency didn’t. The strategic and creative differences ended the eight-year marriage between the Minneapolis agency and the Melville, N.Y.-based client. Shortly after the split last October, Nikon turned to its retail-marketing agency, Hackensack, N.J.-based Source Communications, to create a spot featuring Val Kilmer. In mid-November, the client launched a review of its creative and media account and hired Boston consultancy Pile and Co. to handle it. From the start, Nikon CEO Jack Abrams took a “personal interest” in the pitch, said one source. While many CEOs meet shops in the final stages of a review, Abrams is “front and center on this.” Other client decision makers are Richard LoPinto, vp for Nikon’s SLR (traditional) camera systems, considered the “most introspective” of the group; “laid-back, thoughtful marketer” Jerry Grossman, who handles digital products; and Anna Marie Bakker, the “candid” gm of communications who bridges the gap between the two. Final pitches are slated for the week of Feb. 10.

THE CONTENDERS

ARNOLD Boston

Although agency president Fran Kelly and chief creative Ron Lawner will lead the pitch, this is the first test for Phil Reilly, who was promoted to evp, brand and business development in December. While the shop does not have direct ties to client executives, it believes it does to the brand. It considers Nikon the Volkswagen of cameras—an undervalued brand that could be revived with the right marketing. The Havas-owned agency is expected to trumpet how it swiftly helped turn the tarnished VW brand into the top U.S. import. Another strength: the shop’s VW dealer audience is the same white-collar, urban and professional demographic Nikon is striving to reach. The agency’s insight for the pitch: Nikon is a technologically superior brand with solid, but not flashy, products.



BOZELL New York

Having garnered more print Lions at Cannes last year than any other U.S. agency, Bozell will likely correlate its award-winning print work for The New York Times, Datek and The Art Director’s Club with respect for the photographic image. Joining president and CEO Tom Bernardin, executive brand planning director Joan DuFresne and director of marketing Ruth Ayres on the pitch team is deputy ecd David Nobay, stepping up for the departing Tony Granger. Nobay, who has been running the 60-person creative department since November, has overseen the IPG-owned agency’s “Got Milk?” and Verizon Wireless campaigns. The latter client will likely be key in the shop’s presentation, showing how Bozell can popularize technology around a simple catchphrase (“Can you hear me now?”).



McCANN-ERICKSON New York

At its first meeting with the client in January, McCann’s eight- member team broke the ice by showing still lifes, portraits and other photographs each member took using Nikon equipment. The group, led by chief creative Nina DiSesa and chief operating officer Eric Keshin, also presented a case study for client Gateway’s “People Rule” campaign, which showed how computers and digital photography work together. The largest agency in the pitch will use its proprietary research tool, McCann Pulse, to gain insight into how consumers interact with photography. Do they take more artsy photos or candids? How do they develop those photos— traditionally or uploaded onto computers?