Four Contenders Flock to Detroit To Pitch Cadillac Advertising Account

Fast-Moving Review Aiming to Wrap up By May

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Three of the biggest ad holding firms are vying to handle Cadillac's creative account.

Craig Bierley, new director of Cadillac advertising
Craig Bierley, new director of Cadillac advertising

Agency execs from a trio of companies -- Interpublic Group of Cos., Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe -- flocked to Motor City yesterday to be briefed by General Motors marketing leadership about the Cadillac pitch. All told, spending is estimated at around $250 million.

It's a closed process, there is no consultant overseeing it and it will be a fast-moving review, executives familiar with the matter say. Final presentations are expected to take place in May. The key decision makers at Cadillac will include VP-Global Bob Ferguson, Director of Advertising Craig Bierley and VP-Marketing Don Butler .

"It's a good time to kind of evaluate where we are at," James Vurpillat, global marketing director of Cadillac, told Ad Age at the New York International Auto Show. "The next 3 to 5 years are going to be very important from a growth standpoint. A lot of new products being introduced. [We're] growing on a global basis. It just seemed like a good time to take a look at it."

Mr. Vurpillat declined to comment on number of shops contacted or how big the group. But according to executives familiar with the matter, agencies contending for the business include: Omnicom Group's DDB, Chicago; teams from Interpublic Group of Cos. and Publicis Groupe ; and the incumbent, Minneapolis-based Fallon (part of Publicis). Interpublic and Publicis already handle a range of work for GM.

The limited size of the group has disappointed a lot of shops who were hoping to get a piece of the business; after all these years, it seems that car accounts are still the juice on Madison Avenue. Mr. Vurpillat confirmed Cadillac has received plenty of interest from ad agencies panting to join the review: "There's been a lot of email traffic."

The winner will work with GM's global media agency, Carat -- which now falls under the Dentsu banner after its parent Aegis merged with the Japanese giant, a deal that was finalized just this week.

As recently as late January GM told Ad Age it was happy with Fallon and wasn't planning a change. But the fast-moving review was announced earlier this month, days after news out of Detroit signaled GM would be handing the bulk of its Cadillac ad business to Campbell-Ewald, and tapping McCann to help on Cadillac work in global markets. GM days later announced that it would conduct an official pitch process.

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