1 Mini USA 9 508 041

Topics: Advertising, BMW, Mini Pages: 37 (8727 words) Published: April 26, 2015
REV: JULY 31, 2008

MINI USA: Finding a New Advertising Agency (A)

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It started with a pair of certified letters to MINI USA’s Woodcliff Lake headquarters in northern New Jersey in the summer of 2005. One of the letters was addressed to Jim McDowell, vice president and managing director of MINI USA, the U.S. division of BMW’s MINI automobile brand. The other letter was to Trudy Hardy, marketing manager for MINI USA and a direct report to McDowell. Both letters were from Scheid, Roberts, and Reicher (SRR),1 MINI’s advertising agency since 2001, and both arrived at their respective destinations at almost exactly the same time. From her desk, which was not in the immediate proximity of McDowell’s office, Hardy sat back in her chair and opened the letter without the knowledge that McDowell had just received a similar letter. Her thoughts and feelings as she broke the seal of the envelope and read the one-page letter partly confirmed previous suspicions but, nevertheless, included a sense of great disappointment and some hurt feelings. A rare event in the client-advertising agency relationship, SRR’s letter informed Hardy that they would resign the MINI account in order to pursue a larger account with a competing German automobile manufacturer.2

For Hardy, it was during the next few moments that the gravity of the event began to sink in. SRR had been the ad agency for MINI ever since the months leading up to the U.S. launch of the new MINI Cooper, which was the first new car launched by the MINI brand since its acquisition by BMW several years earlier. In a time when the duration of a client-advertising agency relationship typically lasted for just about two years, the collaboration with SRR had been in her mind a productive one for almost five years. And in the same way that she believed the relationship had been extremely valuable to MINI, it was also hard for Hardy to believe that the same did not hold true for SRR as well. In 2001, the MINI account stood as one of the first major SRR client wins when it was a start-up agency with fewer than 50 employees. SRR had now grown to more than 300 employees, and the launch of the MINI Cooper was an unquestioned success. In some ways, MINI and SRR had grown up together.

1 Although this case is based on actual events, Scheid, Roberts, and Reicher (SRR) is a fictional name for MINI USA’s advertising agency from 2001 to 2005. For simplicity, hereinafter, MINI is used as opposed to MINI USA. 2 The BMW Group maintained a general rule that each BMW brand have its own advertising agency. For example, SRR could not work for BMW and MINI at the same time.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Professor David Godes prepared this case with the assistance of Research Associate Peter Wickersham. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.

Copyright © 2007, 2008 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-5457685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

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