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Universal Studios Begins Search

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Universal Studios put the creative portion of its theme-park account into review last week, notifying incumbent Messner Vetere Berger Mc Namee Schmet terer/Euro RSCG of the decision and reaching out to a select group of agencies to participate, sources said.

The client spent about $15 million on ads in 2000, per CMR, but sources estimated total projected spending is closer to $30-40 million. The cli ent declined comment on the budget.

The assignment includes the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los An geles and Universal Orlando in Flor ida. The latter includes two theme parks, two hotels, and an en ter tainment district called CityWalk.

"This is going to be a very quick process," said one source, adding that shops were asked to submit credentials shortly after being contacted.

Agencies are being briefed this week, sources said. The client declined to disclose the number of agencies or specify which were contacted.

It is unclear if MVBMS was in vited to participate. Shop executives referred calls to the client in Orlando, where chief marketing officer Wyman Roberts is based. Roberts, 42, joined Universal in January after 17 years at Darden Restaurants, where he worked on Red Lobster. Euro RSCG McConnaughy Tatham in Chicago handles Red Lobster.

Wyman did not return calls, but in a statement, client rep Jim Canfield said, "Over the past few years, some good work has been done with Messner, and they have been a very good partner. We would like to take our future marketing to a whole new level with some bold goals and new partners."

MVBMS has handled Universal's theme-park business since 1998. Its most recent work was a 30-second TV spot that ran nation ally and in selected re gional markets earlier this year for Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure. The colorful spot showed people enjoying the rides and costumed characters, such as Spiderman.

Media planning and buying are handled by DDB, Los Angeles; sources said they are not part of the review.

—with Ann M. Mack

and Jack Feuer