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Smart USA Taps AAR Consultancy to Prepare Search

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NEW YORK Smart USA has hired consultancy AAR Partners to lay the groundwork for a search for agencies to handle the U.S. introduction of the Smart car in 2006, sources said. Billings have not been determined.

AAR in New York, which did not return calls, has circulated a "blind" request for information that asks about experience in the retail and automotive categories, as well as efforts to introduce new brands, sources said.

Sources said the information will be used to compile a long list of agencies that broadly fit the profile of what the client, a division of DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz USA in Montvale, N.J., is looking for.

In May, the client hired MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners in New York to handle a strategic assignment. That assignment is now completed, and client executives are preparing a review, said sources.

"We're still probably 60 days away from that," said Dave Schembri, a vice president at Smart USA.

Plans call for hiring more than one agency, since the company will need help with not only traditional advertising but also direct marketing, customer relationship management and media planning and buying, Schembri said. He added, "We're not going to close any door until we look at it."