Theme Park Eyes Davidandgoliath

LOS ANGELES Universal Studios is in final negotiations to name independent davidandgoliath the winner of a creative review for its Hollywood theme-park business, according to sources. Estimated billings are $10 million, per sources.

Finalists in the review included the incumbent, independent Cimarron Group, Hollywood, Calif., and Publicis Groupe’s Team One, El Segundo, Calif. Neither agency could be immediately reached. Sources said Omnicom Group’s BBDO West, San Francisco and Los Angeles, was also a finalist but withdrew from the review within the past few weeks. Independent Secret Weapon Marketing, Santa Monica, Calif., was also a late contender [Adweek Online, March 15.]

The Los Angeles-based davidandgoliath is already a Universal roster shop, handling the client’s Orlando, Fla., theme park.

The studio could not be reached. Davidandgoliath officials declined comment.

Universal Hollywood spent $7 million advertising in 2005, per TNS Media Intelligence, in sharp contrast to the Universal Orlando resort, for which the client spent $45 million in 2004 and $34 million through November 2005, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Sources said the pronounced difference in ad expenditures between the two venues stems from their locations, with Orlando considered a “destination” resort requiring a larger commitment than an attraction in the heart of a America’s second-largest city.

Sources said that a major rebranding effort for the Universal City, Calif. theme park is underway, and that the park plans to spend $10 million on its summer campaign. According to a source, the brief said that NBC Universal was “looking for a postioning and advertising campaign that will solidify Universal Studios Hollywood’s position in the local market that will also strongly entice these people to recommend USH as a ‘must-see’ destination.”

The brief emphasized that “the assignment is to essentially re-launch USH and convince the target audience that we are more than the studio tour that you grew up with or have heard about from the early days.” The “theme” of the summer campaign (though not the tagline, according to the source, is to see the park as a “City on the hill.”

The brief recognizes the perception of being seen variously as a studio tour and theme park asked agencies the rhetorical question, “Can a hybrid message succeed in the market?”

It enticed prospective agencies with its new investments to be unveiled over the summer, which include a studio tour narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, a “Fast and Furious” exploding car race and a miniature set of Skull Island from Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

The Universal Hollywood review did not include media, which remains at Omnicom’s DDB in Los Angeles.

The review pitted three ex-TBWA\Chiat\Day creatives—Team One’s Chris Graves, Cimarron Group’s Nigel Williams and davidandgoliath’s David Angelo—against one another.

This story was updated to include further information on the nature of the assignment.