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Agencies, Start Your Engines

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There hasn't been this much motorcycle controversy since Robbie Knievel tried to jump the fountain at Caesars Palace back in the '80s.

The squabble is between New York's Merkley Newman Harty & Partners, which handles advertising for BMW's bikes, and Dailey & Associates in West Hollywood, Calif., which does the same for Honda. With their respective 2002 ad efforts now out in enthusiast pubs, Merkley is taking very public exception to what it sees as Dailey's rip-off of its 18-month-old campaign. Both feature riders on bikes and passionate, hand-scribbled, first-person testimonials.

"In 30 years in the advertis ing world I've not seen so blatant an imitation of a well-established campaign," writes Steve Bowen, director of business develop ment at Merkley, in a letter sent to Dailey and cc'd widely to the ad community. "We're planning a creative refreshment on our strategy for 2003, would it help if we send an advance copy?"

Dailey honchos Cliff Einstein and Brian Morris were both on vacation last week and unreach able. Sources there were tight-lipped, but they're no doubt wondering if Merk ley thinks it's the only agency that's allowed to use beauty shots and testimonials.