Avis Compiles List of Creative Contenders

BOSTON – Pile and Co. here will spend the remainder of the month determining the initial field of candidates that will participate in the review for the creative portion of Avis Rent A Car System’s account.
The Garden City, N.Y.-based company, which has slipped from second to fifth in the car rental category in the past decade, has split with Bates USA after 15 years. The New York agency’s most recent work utilized the tagline: “We try harder. For you.” The media portion of the business, which is at Grey Advertising in New York, is not part of the review.
“This is a new era for Avis and it is important for us to ensure that we feel we have the best agency partner possible,” said Avis senior vice president of marketing Maria Miller in a statement. She did not return calls seeking specific review details.
Avis spent $30 million on advertising last year and has earmarked the same amount for 1999, according to Pile and Co. president Skip Pile. He refuted speculation that the client is planning to increase its budget to the $50 million range.
Category leader Enterprise Rent-A-Car spends $28 million annually on its advertising through Avrett, Free & Ginsberg in New York, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Hertz, which ranks second, spends about $74 million with DDB Needham in New York. Third-ranked AutoNation budgets about $60 million through various agencies.
Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston is an AutoNation roster shop, which will likely disqualify it from pitching the Avis account. That relationship, however, is believed to be shaky, and an agency representative said no decision has been made about whether it might want to make a play for the Avis creative business.
Publicis & Hal Riney in Chicago had until recently handled Budget Rent A Car. That experience may propel New York sister shop Publicis into the Avis pitch, sources said.
Fallon McElligott in Minneapolis surfaced as a potential participant after it reached the final round of the recent Budget contest, but it withdrew over compensation issues.
A final decision in the Avis creative pitch is not expected until sometime later this summer, probably in August. – with staff reports