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$100 Mil. Audi Eyes 4 Shops

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CHICAGO Audi of America has confirmed that four agencies are contending for creative chores on its domestic advertising account. Estimated billings are $100 million.

Incumbent McKinney, a Durham, N.C.-based Havas shop, is defending against Publicis Groupe-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Publicis' Fallon in Minneapolis and independent Venables, Bell & Partners in San Francisco, the client said.

No outside consultants are involved and Audi looks to complete the process by year's end. Media chores, mainly handled by WPP Group's MediaCom, are not in play.

McKinney has handled the account since 1993. An agency representative referred questions to the client.

The review follows the May appointment of former Mercedes executive Scott Keogh as the company's chief marketing officer. Recent Audi ads have showcased Quattro all-wheel-drive system performance and use the tagline, "Never follow."

A spot for the Audi Q7 showed the SUV traveling through a city, with images of Audi-built racing cars reflected in the windows of nearby buildings, visually linking the vehicle to its brethren. Text reads, "Big can be beautiful. Powerful can be efficient."

The company last year also ventured into branded entertainment, with the agency crafting an intricate Internet game called "The Art of the Heist." The effort told the tale of an Audi A3 that was stolen from a dealership. The campaign used Web sites, blogs, chat rooms, live events and some traditional advertising. The effort won top honors at the MIXX Awards in September 2005.

Audi of America, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., spent just over $100 million on advertising last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Audi is a unit of Volkswagen, which uses MDC Partners' Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami as its lead U.S. creative agency.

This story updates and replaces an item posted yesterday with contenders and additional information.