BMW Reviews to Spread the ‘Joy’

The automaker is looking for a new agency

Is BMW still the Ultimate Driving Machine?

Dan Creed, the German automaker’s head of North America marketing, bristles at the suggestion the iconic tagline, introduced in 1975, has been mothballed. As evidence, he notes the current “Story of Joy” campaign is based on its premise.

“We’ve never gotten rid of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine,’” says Creed. “‘Joy’ goes to the question of what it means to drive the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine.’”

Last month, Creed, who was named to the job in September, embarked upon a review for most of BMW’s U.S. agency business. National advertising is handled, on a project basis, by Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners, N.Y.; Grey West, S.F. works on regional ads; and multicultural marketing is divided between Matlock, Atlanta and Bromley, San Antonio. All of the incumbents are included in the agency search. BMW parted ways with lead U.S. agency GSD&M, which created the ‘Joy’ campaign, when its contract ended late last year.

Creed says the company has received “hundreds” of agency responses to news the business is up for grabs, including some from agencies already working for other car companies. “Several of our competitors would be surprised at who we’ve heard from,” he says. BMW wants to have a new agency onboard for the beginning of the fourth quarter.

BMW’s sales in the U.S. rose 12 percent in 2010, and the company is becoming more aggressive in its marketing efforts. It returned to the Super Bowl this year after a decade-long hiatus. BMW spent nearly $160 million in measured media in 2010, up from almost $140 million in 2009, and the company is expected to increase its budget again this year.

Creed is still formulating a marketing brief for review participants, but he says BMW is in the middle of a “product renaissance” and that will factor heavily into what he wants to communicate. “A lot of auto manufacturers, both in mass and premium, talk about either emotion or efficiency,” he says. “We can talk about both.”

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