BMW shopping for a new ad agency. Oh, Joy!

BMW of North America is beginning a review for its $150 million U.S. ad account, the company said on Monday. The decision comes after a tumultuous six months for the company, having lost its long-time marketing executive, Jack Pitney,to a tragic accident last October and then parting with its former agency last Fall.

BMW is in the midst of an aggressive product onslaught in the next two years as the Munich-based company is trying to grow its business globally, as well as in the States.

The company had used GSD&M, an Austin, Texas-based ad shop until last November. Since then, it has been getting ad work from Kirshenbaum, Bond Senecal + Partners, NY, which created BMW's Super Bowl ads this year. Kirshenbaum had been the runner-up to GSD&M when BMW last reviewed its ad account in 2005, and had been doing the company's CRM work the last five years as well.

BMW's ad work has been the subject of much chatter and even controversy in the last year or so as the company played down its long-running "Ultimate Driving Machine" positioning in favor of a "Joy of Driving" idea. The "Joy," positioning is closer to the BMW brand strategy around the world, as the idea translates into most languages. "Ultimate Driving Machine" apparently doesn't translate into most languages.

BMW sales are holding up in the recession. The company was the number-two luxe brand in 2010, just ahead of Mercedes-Benz and just behind Lexus. But the company has been spending more on price discounts channeled into lease deals and financing discounts.

There are a number of ad shops likely to get a look: Kirshenbaum, Bond Senecal to retain it; The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.; BBDO, NY (Creative chief David Lubars was creative director at Fallon Worldwide when that agency had the business and created BMW Films, among other great work for the carmaker); Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami; and Publicis, NY.

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