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Search for Insights Leads Dove to 4

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Breaking through a cluttered marketplace by generating buzz—via street marketing, events and other non-traditional avenues—continues to find fans among the nation's top advertisers. The latest brand to embrace the tactic is Unilever's Dove, which next month will hear presentations from four shops on buzz-marketing ideas, sources said.

The agencies include MDC Partners' Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Venice, Calif.; Publicis Groupe-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York; and independent media strategist Michaelides & Bednash, also in New York, sources said. The fourth shop could not be determined. Silvia Lagnado, brand director of Dove, the packaged-goods giant's personal-care division, is leading the search, sources said. The contenders were given a strategic task earlier this month.

A Unilever rep confirmed the company had contacted "different types of agencies" to get new thinking on Dove but declined to identify them. The rep emphasized that the exercise would not result in changes to the brand's agency roster. WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago handles Dove advertising.

"The client has drawn a deep demarcation line [between the two accounts]," said one source.

Spending has not been determined, but one source expects it to be in the $2-4 million range. Typically, such efforts, which include street-level events and promotions, are not captured in major media spending estimates.

Dove products, which include soap, cleansing wipes, bodywash and shampoo, were backed by about $145 million in U.S. adspend last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Dove is positioned as being effective but gentle, playing off the "sensitive skin" heritage of the 50-year-old flagship brand.

BBH and Michaelides are Unilever roster shops; CP+B is not. But CP+B has proved its mettle in buzz building via unconventional work for Mini Cooper. CP+B declined comment; the other shops did not return calls.