BMW Cycles Circles Wide Field

NEW YORK BMW Motorcycles is taking a closer look at roughly 15 agencies that contacted the company after it launched a review last month, said Laurence Kuykendall, community and communications manager at the client.

The Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based client is searching for a new agency after incumbent shop Merkley + Partners parted with the motorcycle marketer and declined to defend the business [Adweek Online, Feb. 14]. The New York shop has been the brand’s lead agency since 1998.

Billings on the account, which includes traditional and interactive ads and event marketing, are about $7 million, according to Kuykendall. The traditional piece amounts to roughly half the total, he added. (Last year, the client spent about $2 million in major measured media, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.)

The company seeks a shop with strong capabilities in nontraditional marketing, especially Web-driven efforts, since 90 percent of all BMW motorcycle owners shop online first, Kuykendall said. Key players on the account and creative side must also ride motorcycles since the brand’s positioning is rooted in authenticity, he added.

In addition, the client has no interest in shops that see the account as a potential stepping-stone to BMW’s car business. “We have a mantra here: Motorcycles are not two-wheeled cars,” Kuykendall explained.

By next week, the company plans to issue request for proposals to about 10 shops, which it also intends to visit, Kuykendall said. Based on those meetings, which Kuykendall described as chemistry and capabilities checks, BMW Motorcycles will invite five shops to make strategic and creative presentations. Client executives hope to select an agency by mid-April.

Creative and media planning duties are in play. Media buying duties remain at Icon International in Stamford, Conn.

Kuykendall, a former account supervisor at Merkley who joined BMW Motorcycles in 2000, and marketing services buyer Jennifer Layton are managing the process. Another key decision-maker is sales and marketing manager Dirk Biehler.