Audi of America's decision last week to retain three-year Web-development incumbent Enlighten following a four-month review was based on the i-shop's "understanding and appreciation for the Audi brand and ability to translate that to the interactive world," said Andreas Sigl, client e-business content leader.
But sources said budgetary constraints came into play as Audi's German parent, Volkswagen, saw profits fall 57 percent from 2002 to $1.44 billion last year. "Enlighten was offering up a local, boutique-y retainer," said one source, adding that the 70-person i-shop's blended rate is less than the $140-165 per hour its larger peers generally charge.
Enlighten marketing director Tom Beck countered that figure, noting the Ann Arbor, Mich., agency's blended rates are $100-160 per hour. He also cited the shop's proven track record on the brand, which include creating online programs for the A4 and A8 L.
Sources said the review included Grey Global Group's Grey Interactive, Interpublic Group's R/GA and Havas' McKinney + Silver, which handles Audi's $85 million offline account and online advertising.
"We chose someone who was competitive, but it would never come down to 'Here, this one's five dollars cheaper than the other one,' " said Sigl, adding that the purchasing department requires Audi to review its existing relationships every three years to "keep everyone honest."