Bally Total Fitness’ Latest Choice: Colby Effler

LOS ANGELES-Colby Effler & Partners has become the latest ad agency hired to help pump up Bally Total Fitness’ membership ranks.

Neither the agency nor the client would confirm the budget, but sources with knowledge of the account placed billings at $25-30 million. Initiative Media’s Chi cago office will continue to handle media buying.

Colby won the account following a five-month review of undisclosed shops and is set to break new work in one or two test markets as early as May. The Santa Monica, Calif., agency got the thumbs up after submitting humorous spec creative work that will form the basis of the new campaign.

Colby is the fifth agency in seven years to take a stab at Bally’s account. Most recently the fitness chain produced work in-house while shopping around for an agency. Prior to that, the Chi cago-based client used Doner in Baltimore, McCann-Erickson in Los Angeles, Kovel Kresser & Partners (now Kovel/Fuller) in L.A. and Hal Riney & Partners/Heartland in Chicago.

Colby partner Rick Colby said he is undaunted by the client’s agency-hopping. “We understand they have had some difficulties [with ad agencies] in the past,” he said. “But if the work works, they will stick with the agency. We understand that.”

Paul Toback, client svp of corporate development, acknowledged that the 30-year-old company is eager to see quick results from its advertising. Still, he stressed that the account has been moved repeatedly in recent years in an effort to find agencies best suited for particular strategies and projects.

“Anyone who is spending a corporation’s money should be a demanding client,” Toback said. He pointed out that the company has enjoyed a good working relationship with Initiative for nearly 10 years.

“We have had a great relationship with Bally’s,” agreed Will Howard, Initiative’s general manager in Chicago. “It’s a true partnership.”

Kovel/Fuller president Lee Kovel also defended his former client. “I’d take that account tomorrow,” he said. “I hope the agency that got it resigns, so we can go after it.”