Sandwich Maker Rates Shops

Blimpie Subs & Salads is considering a dozen shops in its search for a new agency to handle creative and media planning.

Shops invited to respond include: Berlin Cameron & Partners, Bouchez Kent + Co., De-Vito/Verdi, DiNoto Lee, Mad Dogs & Englishmen and Hampel/Stefanides, all in New York; Adworks, Washington, D.C.; Trone Advertising, Greensboro, N.C.; and Austin Kelley Advertising and Fitzgerald + Co., both in Atlanta.

Consultant Hasan Ramusevic (Hasan + Co. in Raleigh, N.C.) is managing the review.

San Francisco’s Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners West, which had held the business for seven years, was fired by the Atlanta-based client last fall.

Ad spending is estimated at$10-15 million. Media buying for the sandwich chain is handled by various shops; it is not up for review.

As outlined in the client’s request for proposal, a cut to six semifinalists will be made before Christmas. Credentials and “chemistry meetings” will be held the week of Jan. 7. Ultimately, three finalists will be given a creative assignment for presentation in early February.

The winner will attempt to reposition Blimpie and breathe new life into the brand.

“It’s a little bit of a David-and-Goliath scenario,” said one source involved in the review. “Blimpie has been severely outspent by Subway, and they have some distribution hurdles as well. But they’ve been around as long and they feel they have a better product.”

Subway, based in Mitford, Conn., spent $131 million on advertising in 2000, compared to $7 million for Blimpie, according to CMR.

Contenders must demonstrate an understanding of the client’s issues, including a “share-of-mind” problem, i.e., a brand disconnect among consumers, said an agency source.

Parent firm Blimpie International in New York has about 2,000 franchisee-operated restaurants in the U.S. and 60 internationally.

There are other forces driving the review, sources said. Jeffrey Endervelt, a West Coast sub-franchisor, is heading an initiative to purchase all outstanding shares of Blimpie International. When completed, the firm will be delisted from its stock exchange, sources said.

“The privatization will enable them to focus on the quality of the product and not short-term financial goals,” a source said.