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Timex Looks at 7, Seeks 'Cultural Icon' Status

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The seven semifinalists in Timex's estimated $5-10 million review will make capabilities presentations within the next two weeks as the client looks to position itself as a "cultural icon," sources said.

The semifinalists, who last week were named to pitch the business, are Modernista! in Boston; Mullen in Wenham, Mass.; and the New York offices of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, and Margeotes|Fertitta + Partners.

A cut to three will be made in mid-November, with a decision in December, according to Judy Neer, evp at Pile and Co., the Boston consultancy guiding the search.

Neither Neer nor a Timex rep resentative would define what the Middlebury, Conn., company is seeking in the review, or why after 15 years it parted ways in September with incumbent Fallon in Minneapolis.

Sources said Timex wants to combat the perception that its watches are just fashion accessories and easily replaceable commodities that are unworthy of serious brand loyalty. It seeks to recast itself as a technological innovator, with products that are just as hip and important to today's consumers, according to sources. "They want to be relevant again, culturally relevant, an icon," said one source.

Combating flat sales, estimated at about $500-600 million, is also a priority for the privately held company, sources said.

Fallon a year ago brought back the classic Timex tagline "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking" in a print campaign that focused on style over product features. Ads in People and Sports Illustrated showed Timex wearers, from hair stylists to surfers, whose watches fit their individual styles. That tagline also graced ads that broke two months ago from Interpublic Group's Sloan Group in New York for the company's new TMX2 MP3 player.