Matchmaker service makes it easier to find the right ad agency

Last year American Tourister luggage, Coty International fragrances, Days Inns of Atlanta, and Exxon Office Systems went shopping for a new advertising agency to help market their products and services.

Each of these these multimillion-dollar advertisers ended up using the services of the Advertising Agency Register (AAR) to save time and cut costs in their agency search.

Matching advertisers to advertising agencies has often been a costly, time-consuming, trial-and-error search that frequently produced some unlikely advertising alliances. Then in 1980, the AAR branched out from its European offices to New York, bringing its relatively new concept to this country.

AAR was founded in London nearly eight years ago by Lindy Payne when a friend who was in advertising complained about how much time was being wasted searching for a suitable advertising agency for his company.

''I knew there had to be a better way,'' Miss Payne later remarked, ''and that's how the Advertising Agency Register came into being.'' Two years later, AAR opened its first branch office, in Paris.

The way it works is quite simple. Advertising agencies that would like to be considered by advertisers pay an annual fee of $4,000 to be listed with AAR. For this fee, the register keeps on file a 10-minute videotape presentation on the agency and samples of its work, along with a file folder of material promoting the agency. This is then available to an advertiser looking for a new agency connection. The advertiser pays a one-time charge of $1,500 for the search privilege.

Leslie Winthrop is in charge of the New York office of the Advertising Agency Register.

''Confidentiality,'' Miss Winthrop is quick to point out, ''is one of the big benefits of what AAR has to offer. It not only saves ruffled feelings, it actually saves time. And it's a big plus not to tip your plans to your competition.''

In this country, AAR has more than 400 member agencies listed, about one-third of them based in New York and the rest spread across the country. Accounts range in size from those billing $400,000 a year -- the smallest that AAR will accept -- to those billing more than $25 million.

''Our average AAR advertising client, who is screening our ad agencies, spends about 3 or 4 million a year on advertising,'' Miss Winthrop says. ''But a lot of our advertisers spend somewhere between 5 and 10 million. And of course we're delighted to work with the half-million-dollar accounts, because that means substantial business for a $10 million agency and it could represent an account with great growth potential for advertiser and agency alike.''

One of the largest advertising switches handled by AAR involved Exxon Office Systems, makers and marketers of the Qyx typewriter, Qwip machines, and Vydec word processors. Its $20 million worth of annual advertising has now been assigned to Marsteller Inc. in Chicago.

The story was different for American Tourister. ''A lot of clients today do not confine their agency search to where they are located,'' Miss Winthrop reports. The Warren, R.I., luggage manufacturer ended up at the Warren, Mich., office of Campbell-Ewald Advertising.

Days Inns selected the Atlanta office of Bozell & Jacobs for its agency. Coty fragrances split its advertising business between two New York shops, Smith/Greenland for its international division and Warwick Advertising for domestic advertising.

The list of agencies that AAR can offer prospective advertisers includes some of the largest worldwide, such as Foote, Cone & Belding Communications, as well as some of the oldest and most prestigious, such as N. W. Ayer Inc. The list also includes many agencies with offices in more than one city, like Al Paul Lefton advertising in New York and Philadelphia. And AAR features some of the more sought-after creative shops in New York, including Ally & Gargano; Rosenfeld, Sirowitz & Lawson; and Scali, McCabe, Sloves.

The energetic AAR is now turning its attention to pairing off clients with public relations firms. The plans call for it to launch the public relations activity in London by the middle of this year, with the New York operation coming later.

But in fact it is already busily at work on both sides of the Atlantic with its first public relations clients. As with advertising agency match-ups, the client demand for the service impelled it to action. As you might have guessed, it is calling it the Public Relations Register, or PRR.

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