7 Vie for $60 Mil. Goodyear Biz

The budget’s hefty but hardly humongous, the product’s well-known but scarcely sexy, yet Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.’s agency search is shaping up as this winter’s headline heavyweight bout.

“We’re looking for excellent creative that tells a story,” said Dave Lenox, director of marketing communications for the Akron, Ohio-based client.

Goodyear has a good chance at getting that from a list of contenders drawn up by Lenox and others for the company’s $60 million creative and media account. Meeting with Goodyear this week to tout their capabilities are executives from Fallon in Minneapolis; GSD&M in Austin, Texas; Young & Rubicam, BBDO and McCann-Erickson, all in New York; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco; and TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif. A list of finalists will be selected and given a creative project, with a decision due by early March.

“This is a kick-ass contenders’ list; it’s going to be great,” said one agency executive pitching the business.

Fifteen-year incumbent J. Walter Thompson in Detroit last week dropped out of the competition. For the past three years, Goodyear has run work with that agency’s tag and jingle, “Serious Freedom.”

Goodyear’s new marketing team was unhappy with the work, questioning the meaning of “Serious Freedom,” according to sources.

The key decision makers in the review Lenox, president and COO Robert Keegan, president of Goodyear North America John Polhemus and director of marketing services John Montgomery all took their posts within the last six months, a Goodyear representative said.

McCann handles the brand in Latin America and media in Europe, while Leagas Delaney handles creative in Europe.

Some sources suggested the stellar lineup of shops and new ad brass at Goodyear led J. Walter Thompson to withdraw, after officials said earlier it would defend. An agency representative denied that was the case, saying the shop dropped out for “a whole lot of reasons,” which he declined to specify.