Best Buy Media in Play

LOS ANGELES–Two big electronics retail accounts were active last week, as Best Buy launched a search for a shop to handle its estimated

$50 million national broadcast-buying business, while Circuit City split with TBWA\Chiat\Day.

TBWA\C\D’s New York office handled about a $50 million portion of the Richmond, Va., chain’s $150 million ad account, the rest of which was in-house. It couldn’t be determined if Circuit City will take the agency’s portion in-house or launch a search. A company representative could not immediately be reached.

Best Buy would give the winner a foot in the door of a company whose total spend is an impressive $300 million. Until now, all offline media planning and buying has been handled by Best Buy’s in-house shop, BBA.

The media-review winner links up with a fast-moving company bent on expansion. Despite the threat of a sales slowdown as the faltering economy gives consumers pause in “nonessential” purchases, Best Buy’s broadcast presence is bound to increase as it plans to open almost 60 new stores by the end of 2002. Currently Best Buy operates more than 400 stores in 41 states.

Several top media shops are participating in the review, according to sources, including Starcom, Zenith Media and OMD. The latter’s Omnicom sister, DDB, New York, has a relationship with Best Buy, handling the estimated $50 million interactive buying for with its online arm, Tribal DDB.

None of the agencies said to be involved in the review would comment. Best Buy also declined to name contenders for its business.

“Media-effectiveness benefits” led to the company’s decision to outsource its traditional media, said Barry Johnson, manager of marketing communications for Best Buy.

TBWA\C\D executives could not be reached for comment on its split with Circuit City. The shop won the account in the summer of 1999 and launched a branding campaign last year tagged “Imagine that.” The company, whose stock has dropped precipitously, had relied on sales-promotional work, and sources said it may be returning to that strategy, leading to its split with TBWA\C\D.

–with staff reports