Smart Selects BBDO for U.S. Launch

NEW YORK After postponing the U.S. launch of the Smart car and scuttling a review in the middle of last year, DaimlerChrysler has selected BBDO to handle the brand in the U.S. without a review and is in final contract negotiations with the agency, sources said.

The Smart nameplate is on schedule to hit the domestic market in 2008, according to its Web site, www.usa.smart.com.

During last year’s review in which shops such as DeVito/Verdi and StrawberryFrog, both New York, and San Francisco-based Venables, Bell & Partners made it to the finals, the client had a projected media spend of $20 million to introduce the brand [Adweek, April 4, 2005].

The Smart brand win expands the Omnicom Group agency’s relationship with DaimlerChrysler. Its Detroit office handles the Dodge brand and last month, its Paris office, CLM/BBDO, was awarded global creative duties on the introduction of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, sources said. Estimated media spending on that brand is $40-50 million, per sources.

BBDO West also handles the estimated $235 million Mitsubishi U.S. account, which it won in March 2005 after a review. At the time, DaimlerChrysler owned a 12 percent stake in Mitsubishi, and Dave Schembri was evp of sales and marketing of Mitsubishi North America. Before that, he was at Mercedes-Benz, where he worked on laying the groundwork for the U.S. introduction of Smart. But when Mercedes postponed that debut, Schembri joined Mitsubishi, and a month later it hired BBDO. Five months ago, Schembri left Mitsubishi and rejoined the Mercedes as president of Smart USA in Auburn Hills, Mich.

A BBDO representative declined to comment, as did a Mercedes-Benz official.