Chevrolet to Begin Review for New Shop Assignments

Campbell-Ewald to Remain Lead Agency; Non-Roster Shops Will Be Considered

By Published on . 12

DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- General Motors Co. will start hearing pitches for select Chevrolet assignments, although the brand's longtime incumbent, Campbell-Ewald, will remain agency of record, according to two executives familiar with the matter. Which agencies will be invited or whether GM will hire a consultant to handle the pitches remains unclear.

Brent Dewar
Brent Dewar Credit: GM
A spokesman confirmed the review, saying that "as Chevrolet moves to expand its global presence it will reach out to a wider range of advertising agencies for new brand and product campaigns." He said Campbell-Ewald "will continue as the lead agency in supporting product information, brand catalogs and retail support," and that the shop is welcome to participate in the review, which will also be open to non-roster shops.

This would be the second big agency move by the automaker in less than a week, and it's a signal of change at the "new" GM. Last Friday, Cadillac called a review for its national and regional dealer creative account and hired Ark Advisors, New York, as the review consultant. Incumbent Modernista, a Boston-based independent, opted not to defend.

Return of Brent Dewar
Chevrolet's move comes within months of the return of Brent Dewar to head the volume brand, this time as global brand coordinator and VP for North America. Mr. Dewar last headed Chevrolet in the U.S. as general manager for two years until 2005, and he returned this summer from a one-year tour of duty in Europe for GM.

During Mr. Dewar's first reign at Chevrolet, he was tough on the brand's Warren, Mich., agency, said two former managers of the Interpublic Group of Cos. shop. One of his first moves upon his return, one of those managers said, was to pull the plug on a new brand blitz that was ready to go and had already been approved by Mark LaNeve, who until July 10 had been VP-sales, service and marketing at GM in North America. Today is the last day at GM for Mr. LaNeve, who was moved to VP-sales after GM's emergence from bankruptcy court in July.

Neither he nor Mr. Dewar returned e-mails for comment.

GM backed its biggest-selling brand with $797 million in U.S. measured media last year, a 12% increase from 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Campbell-Ewald's current work for Chevrolet features NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, with whom the automaker has signed a contract. Although auto pundits panned the work as vanilla, internal research shows Mr. Long is credible and is helping to move the needle on consideration, one exec said.

Weak sales
Chevrolet's new U.S. vehicle sales are off 43% in the first nine months of 2009, to 987,912 units vs. the same period a year ago, and its best-selling model remains the Silverado full-size pickup. But the marketer didn't seem to respond to heavy advertising in September from Ford Motor Co., which backed its competing F-Series with a "Truck Month" sale. Chevy Silverado sales fell 62% last month to 19,401 units vs. September 2008, but Ford's F-Series managed a 4% jump in sales to 33,877 units in September, according to Automotive News.

Campbell-Ewald has been Chevrolet's agency of record since 1922, and, like any long marriage, the relationship has seen good times and bad. Agency founder Frank J. Campbell's first major client was in 1907: Alfred P. Sloan Jr., who headed Hyatt Roller Bearing Co. Mr. Sloan later became CEO of GM, and the agency did its first work for Chevrolet in 1919. Mr. Sloan gave the agency significant new business in 1920 beginning with Buick, and a year later Cadillac, Oldsmobile, GM Truck and Oakland Motor Car followed. By 1922, the agency was awarded all of GM's $6 million ad business, including the struggling Chevrolet division.

Campbell-Ewald has created some of the most effective ads for Chevrolet -- from Dinah Shore singing "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet" in the 1950s and '60s to Bob Seger belting out "Like a Rock" starting in 1991. In between, there were memorable slogans, including "Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet" (1975) and "The Heartbeat of America" (1986). "Heartbeat" alone has won more than 400 awards. Mr. Dewar oversaw the birth of the agency's "American Revolution" theme for the brand in late 2003, which marked the arrival of a slew of new products.

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