$80 Mil. Bally Business Shifts to Starcom

LOS ANGELES Bally Total Fitness has awarded its media buying and planning account to Publicis Groupe’s Starcom, the client has confirmed.

Starcom outpaced Aegis Group’s Carat in the final round of a review, sources said. Both shops pitched the fitness chain from their offices in Chicago.

Starcom will handle general marketing work, while Starcom’s Halogen division will work on direct response chores.

The client, which is also in Chicago, spent nearly $80 million on ads last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The move to Starcom had been expected [Adweek Online, March 24].

Bally operates 440 clubs in 29 states. The incumbent, Interpublic Group’s Initiative in Chicago, did not defend.

Starcom was selected because it “can deliver us the best strategy and value for our marketing investment,” said Paul Toback, chairman and CEO of Bally, in a statement.

The troubled marketer, which has not filed a financial statement since the first quarter of 2004, and whose accounting practices are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, last week named Levitz Home Furnishings top financial executive Carl Landeck as CFO.

Bally is in the second year of a marketing effort to broaden its membership from the fitness-minded to those across all health and exercise levels.

Former CMO Martin Pazzani, who left in January after 19 months at Bally, spearheaded the strategy. His replacement has not been named.

Bally’s creative is handled by several shops, including direct response specialist and WPP Group shop A. Eicoff Communications in Chicago and a small New York independent called Rocketscience.

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