Grey Plans Product Performance Ads for BMW

LOS ANGELES BMW of North America concluded its negotiations with Grey Global Group’s Grey and Monday awarded the agency creative for its $30 million Western regional dealers account, said John Crosson, Grey’s president [, Dec. 8].

Grey, Los Angeles, takes over the creative account held since 1993 by Mendelsohn/Zien, a Los Angeles shop partially owned by Hakuhodo. Publicis’ Optimedia, Seattle, and Interpublic Group’s Newspaper Services of America, Downers Grove, Ill., will continue media duties.

Grey was chosen for its “incomparable creative vision and broad automotive experience,” said Jack Kelly, Western regional sales and marketing manager at BMW, Ontario, Calif., whose search was conducted by Select Resources International, West Hollywood, Calif.

“From the moment we were invited to submit, we pursued BMW with a relentless vigor to exceed expectations,” Crosson said.

Grey dispatched what Crosson called “mystery shoppers” to more than half the dealerships in six of the 13 states of the Western region to research the consumer experience at point-of-sale. The agency’s research department conducted a quantitative study on why recent buyers of other luxury cars had rejected BMW and applied its Emotional Triggers program to study the consumer connection to the brand, all of which earned high marks in the pitch, Crosson said.

“We will try to take the national brand communication and tailor it more to a product-sale message, not based on price, as in a retail campaign, but based on the performance features,” said Crosson.

Tom Cavanagh, a veteran car-account executive brought in to head Grey’s new business development in 2000, said that being at Grey without a car was “like owning the world’s most beautiful basketball court, but not having a ball.”

“We pitched three ideas that were distinct enough to give them things to gravitate towards,” said Bob Merlotti, ecd and evp, assigned lead creative duties on a car account the first time. “I would characterize the campaigns as having ‘witty’, ‘dramatic’ and ‘exhilarating’ themes. I had internalized this idea of the joy of driving, but in our working meetings I really got religion from them.”

“When you’ve got that distinctive a brand, it’s a matter of freshening up the message, not tearing up the equity of the brand,” Merlotti added. “There’s more to BMWs than a revving engine. Features like adaptive headlights and anti-roll stabilization are really performance based, not just gadgetry. So we have to wrap the engineering up in laymen’s terms and fold it into the joy of driving.”