CarMax Eyes 3 Shops for Its Creative Business

Super Bowl advertiser spends $60 million on media annually

Serious about raising its profile, CarMax advertised on two of the past four Super Bowls.

On again, off again Super Bowl advertiser CarMax appears to be taking the next game off as it searches for a new lead creative agency.

Three agencies have reached the final round of a creative review, with pitches scheduled for later this week at CarMax's headquarters in Richmond, Va. Sources identified the shops as BBDO in Atlanta, McKinney in Durham, N.C. and The Martin Agency in Richmond.

CarMax is a significant advertiser whose media spending exceeded $60 million last year and $44 million in the first half of 2014, according to Kantar Media. The used car retailer also advertised during this year's Super Bowl with a spot called "Slow Clap," which featured men, women, children, actor Sean Astin ("Rudy") and even a bear applauding as a CarMax user's sedan passed them by. The tagline was, "Start here."

The agency behind "Slow Clap," Silver + Partners in New York, is not participating in the review, though the shop, formerly known as Amalgamated, has worked on the brand for four years. In that time frame, CarMax has bought time during two Super Bowls. So, clearly the company is serious about building its profile.

CarMax has more than 120 dealerships in 33 states, with a large concentration of outlets in the Southeast, Midwest and West. The company generated $13.72 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year, which ended Feb. 28.

The national agency review follows a search for a digital shop earlier in the year, which resulted in the hiring of Publicis Groupe's Razorfish for projects. Hasan + Co. in Raleigh, N.C. helped manage that search.

The latest search also coincides with the arrival of a new chief marketing officer. Jim Lyski, former CMO at Scotts Miracle-Gro, arrived in August, filling a vacancy left by the December 2012 exit of Joseph Kunkel, who was svp of marketing and strategy.

Media planning and buying remain in-house, according to sources. CarMax also creates some digital marketing itself.

The company had no comment. But sources expect a selection by next month.

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