Trying to Regain The Midas Touch

To defend its $40 million Midas account, Cliff Freeman and Partners hopes to convince the client that it is, in the words of Freeman, “a different agency” than the one Midas hired in October 2001.

Freeman said new hires have helped to broaden the agency’s abilities “beyond TV” since it won Midas. They include copywriter Ari Merkin, who worked on the print-focused Mini launch at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and retail specialist Neil Abramson.

Retail specialist Zimmerman & Partners, which has a relationship with Freeman (the two pitched and won DSW/Value City and pitched and lost The Wiz together in the past year), could help defend. Jordan Zimmerman, CEO of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., shop, said he has not yet discussed the possibility with Freeman, but he emphasized the strength of the pairing. “Freeman has an exceptional creative vision,” he said. “We have a brilliant business vision that no one else has to offer.”

Freeman’s debut for the auto-service chain and parts marketer ran in March 2002. It was roundly criticized for a lifetime-guarantee spot in which an old lady lifts her blouse in front of two Midas workers and asks, “So, what can you do with these?” Since then, Freeman’s work has been primarily promotional.

The Itasca, Ill., client last week sent questionnaires to eight undisclosed shops and invited Freeman to defend. A desire for “new creative approaches” is behind the search, said client rep Bob Troyer.

The search was sparked by new Midas CEO and former McDonald’s Americas president Alan Feldman, who took over in January and is re-evaluating everything about a company he has described as being in “transition.” Midas is eliminating its auto-parts distribution business to concentrate on its 1,600-plus auto-service shops in the U.S.