Auto-Parts Chain Review In Limbo

Tells shops it’s not sure about moving in-house media biz

Practically every media review has a winning agency, even if it’s the incumbent. Except perhaps for AutoZone.

The nation’s No. 1 auto-parts chain has heard credentials presentations at its Memphis headquarters from several agencies in the past month, but it has indicated to suitors that is not yet convinced it should move its $90 million media planning and buying account, handled in-house, to an outside agency, sources said.

“They like the idea of control, but you don’t see many companies [that size] doing their own media,” said one agency executive. “They’re serious enough. I think it’s a case of ‘they’ll know it if they see it.’ ”

The client—whose adspend is more than double that of its nearest competitor, Pep Boys (whose account is also in-house)—has talked to Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest, Havas’ MPG, Aegis Group’s Carat and independent Horizon Media, among others, sources said. The shops were unavailable for comment. It was unclear if more meetings were scheduled, and no timetable for a decision has been given.

Client media director Charles Lanphear, a former Heinz media executive who joined AutoZone in June, confirmed the talks but declined further comment. Creative, handled in-house and by shops on a project basis, is unaffected, he said.

Other decision makers at the company include evp of merchandising and marketing Jim Shea, former Party City CEO who joined this month, and svp of marketing Lisa Kranc, sources said.

The chain operates more than 3,400 stores in the U.S. and Mexico. It reported sales of $1.8 billion for its fiscal fourth quarter ended Aug. 28, up 0.3 percent from the same period a year before. Meanwhile, same-store sales fell 3 percent for the quarter.