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California Shop Puts New Twist on Media Bidding

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LOS ANGELES -- Keen Eye International has repositioned itself as a media buying and planning broker and will put an estimated $75 million-plus in media billings up for bid in the second half of the year, sources said.

The San Diego agency is shopping what it calls the "Media All-Stars" bid process, based on the concept that agencies have differing strengths across media and markets. One shop may have a top buying or planning operation in Chicago or New York, for example, but "maybe another agency has a better buyer in Topeka," said a source.

Keen Eye will bid out various portions of an advertiser's media business in the top markets for one-year periods. It will then audit the winning shops' performance. Incumbent agencies will be invited to participate.

The hope is that "Media All-Stars" will find favor with clients concerned about getting the most out of their adspend in a consolidating local marketplace. The lure for shops is to bid on what, in effect, would be incremental business.

Keen Eye executives declined comment.

Bidding is not new; companies such as Denver-based Advantage Media have specialized in it. Auditing firms like Hawk Media in San Francisco also put pieces of clients' business into review on occasion. Most bids, however, focus on price. Keen Eye will also review category experience, sales results and other factors.

"An agency that wins a bid may not be the cheapest on a cost basis," said one agency executive.

The shop is talking with several clients, including Home Depot, about bidding out parts of their business. "We're discussing an agreement with them, but we don't have one yet," said a Home Depot rep.

Keen Eye has met with top media agencies, including Carat, Mediaedge:cia and Starcom, according to sources. It is not known whether any have agreed to participate.

Keen Eye was formed in 2000 by former EmpowerMediaMarketing evp/partner Tim Hahnke, who is CEO. In order to launch its new process, the shop no longer plans or buys media.