GSD&M Taps Into BMW’s ‘Folklore’ To Win $70M+ Job

The way in which BMW announced the winner of its $70-80 million account may say a lot about where newly hired GSD&M is expected to take the brand.

Showing up at the agency’s Austin, Texas, headquarters with an oompah band clad in lederhosen that was playing “Roll Out the Barrel,” the marketers of the “ultimate driving machine” warmed the BMW image with a combination of culture and tradition—traits Japanese luxury rivals can’t claim.

Trailing only Lexus among import luxury models, BMW wants the Omnicom agency to put the new 330ci and other models on the radar screens of busy executives who fit the profile of its buyers but haven’t considered the brand in the past, sources said.

BMW is also giving GSD&M a chance to compete with Grey in New York and Publicis offices for dealer ads, said Patrick McKenna, BMW director of marketing communications. The car company’s current ad spend for national and dealer ads is $150 million, said BMW marketing vp Jack Pitney. And though he said it will increase next year, he would not cite by how much.

The agency’s job is to “reassert, not reinvent the brand,” said McKenna, who added that GSD&M prevailed in the review by capturing “the great folklore and the history of this company and what it stands for.”

Taking over a client at a time when it’s seeing record sales and after 10 years with its previous agency, GSD&M “should feel the heat,” said automotive marketing consultant Todd Turner of Car Concepts in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “But reasserting BMW’s brand image is a lot easier than reinventing it. BMW’s brand image is very secure.”

The car company told agencies from the start that it would retain its 30-year line, “The ultimate driving machine.” But the Bavarian luxury brand wanted to increase the emotional bond between its customers and its cars, marketing executives said. Agencies were asked to create a campaign with an emotional appeal behind BMW’s 330ci model, a sporty coupe.

GSD&M excelled in its “holistic” communications strategy that went beyond traditional advertising media, said Pitney.

Pitney launched the review last summer after moving to BMW from the company’s Mini brand. Pitney said BMW plans to use some lessons learned from Mini’s successful marketing strategy, particularly in below-the-line efforts.

After 10 years on the account, Fallon bowed out when BMW launched the review. One source said BMW was disappointed that Fallon chose not to defend the account. Starting with 100 agencies, BMW narrowed the final four to GSD&M, Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners in New York, The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., and Anomaly in New York. On Nov. 11, the competition came down to GSD&M and KB+P. The final hours were spent haggling over compensation, sources said.

The win ended GSD&M’s three-year quest to find a car account to replace Land Rover, which it handled from March 2000 to October 2002, when parent Ford Motor Co. shifted it to Young & Rubicam. Thwarted as a finalist in Subaru and Kia last year, GSD&M gains not just a car account, but a premiere luxury brand.

Agency co-founder Roy Spence said that “passion for the brand won the pitch,” and added, “This one really got our juices flowing. We had over 250 people who touched the pitch.”

Spence said the agency will hire staff to handle the account, but would not specify how many positions. GSD&M may open a branch near BMW’s headquarters in New Jersey, he added.

Creative directors Derek Pletch and Scott MacGregor, who developed the idea for the pitch, will work on the account with creative director Mark Ray, the agency said.

The work developed in the pitch will be used in the first GSD&M campaign expected to break in March, Pitney said. GSD&M handles media planning; Optimedia will retain media buying chores; interactive work goes to Dotglu, an affiliate of search runner-up KB+P.