WOODCLIFF LAKE, NJ: Auto brand Mini U.S.A. has retained incumbent Peppercomm as its U.S. AOR after issuing an RFP earlier this year.
Peppercomm’s responsibilities include corporate communications support for all aspects of the brand in the U.S. The firm is working on consumer communications and offering counsel on internal and external comms, “primarily on editorial media,” said Andrew Cutler, head of corporate communications at Mini U.S.A, who added that the firm will also work on executive communications, dealer issues and “the full scope of anything that comes through my virtual office.”
However, Peppercomm will not be helping this year with Mini's biennial owner event, Mini Takes the States, a summer rally held for U.S. customers. The firm has supported the last four iterations of the event, but it has been rescheduled for next summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mini is continuing to service cars, using remote vehicle pickup and delivery, trying to streamline online lease renews and sales and is offering customers “latitude and flexibility” when it comes to payments on a case-by-case basis, Cutler said. Mini is also asking Peppercomm to support its electric vehicle program and new models and special editions it is planning to roll out this year.
Peppercomm has a core team of five staffers led by SVP and automotive and transportation specialist Rob Duda on the account, according to an agency spokesperson.
Cutler declined to reveal financial details of the account, which is a multi-year deal with an option to extend. The automaker issued the RFP at the beginning of the year. Several agencies were invited, and the finalists were Peppercomm, Shift Communications and Berk Communications. Cutler said he informed the three shops of Mini’s decision last week.
“[It was] a very disappointing loss for us, but we totally respect Andrew’s decision,” said Rick Murray, managing partner of Shift. “He was incredibly generous with both his time and his feedback throughout the process. I’m really proud of the team and thinking we shared with them and wouldn’t have done anything differently given the chance.”
A Berk representative could not be reached for comment.
Mini chose to invite boutique agencies to the account review, Cutler said.
“We weren’t looking for large agencies,” he explained. “It was more [about] the creativity and how nimble and quick they could be.”
“[Berk and Shift] were very competitive and both were very impressive in terms of the creativity and strength they brought to the table. [They] came with unique ways of blending paid social media engagement to drive editorial coverage,” Cutler added. “Some other ideas were put forth where they leveraged the power of networks around entertainment and celebrities to drive the needle from an editorial standpoint.”
Although he stressed that the review was competitive, Cutler said Peppercomm’s experience with Mini initiatives, like its electric vehicle, were difficult for the other shops to overcome, as were concerns about bringing on a new agency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s always a difficult thing,” Cutler said. “In a pandemic or any kind of challenge, it’s always tough to change course.”
Peppercomm won Mini’s AOR business in 2013 in a competitive review.