NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The auto-ad business used to be known for its stability, owing to accounts with long learning curves that placed a premium on experience and scale that made it tough to shift quickly. But the tumult that's rocked the auto business has changed all that, as evidenced by three iconic auto brands representing a collective $600 million in measured media spending swapping shops or going into play just last week.
"It is unprecedented," said veteran agency-search consultant David Beals. "But I guess that's what happens when you get a category in crisis."
The catalyst in two of the moves was General Motors VP-U.S. Advertising Joel Ewanick, who -- only weeks after abruptly dumping Chevy agency Publicis for Omnicom's Goodby Silverstein & Partners -- struck again, this time on the $270 million Cadillac business.
Mr. Ewanick abruptly fired Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which had only handled the business for five months, and is said to be in the process of shifting the account elsewhere within Publicis Groupe. The destination was originally thought to be Fallon, Minneapolis, but executives familiar with the matter said it wasn't yet certain whether Caddy would end up parked at Fallon, another Publicis agency or some combination of shops within Publicis.
One major reason for the uncertainty is the agency fate of the Chrysler brand, which has been handled by Fallon since late last year. Publicis executives are said to be scrambling to find a way to keep Chrysler and Cadillac within the holding company, an outcome that would have been unthinkable as recently as 2008, when Chrysler and General Motors held enormous sway over Omnicom Group and Publicis, respectively. Chrysler spent more than $150 million on measured media in 2009.
The swiftness of the changes surprised BBH, which read about its firing in Ad Age last week. "We were extremely surprised to learn via the press yesterday that Cadillac has decided to move its advertising business elsewhere," CEO Greg Anderson said in a statement June 24. It closely echoed one by Publicis, New York CEO Susan Gianinno on May 20 after her agency learned of its Chevy ouster through the press before its first meeting with Mr. Ewanick.
Conventional by comparison was last week's other major auto shift: Mazda's decision to part ways with longtime North American agency of record Doner, a Michigan-based independent, in favor of a hybrid team from WPP. Mazda spent $152 million on measured media in 2009, although, like Chrysler, it typically shells out more than $200 million annually.
Those shifts followed agency shifts earlier this year by Volkswagen (from MDC's Crispin Porter & Bogusky to Interpublic's Deutsch) and Mitsubishi (from Cimarron Group's Traffic to Omnicom's 180, Los Angeles). �~ ~ ~
Contributing: Rupal Parekh
Joel Ewanick's off-and-on relationships with Fallon and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
January 1993: Porsche fires Fallon and begins review following top management changes at the automaker amid slumping sales. Mr. Ewanick is Porsche's marketing manager. �
March 1993: Porsche hires Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
January 1998: Porsche and Goodby say they "have mutually decided to part company." Mr. Ewanick, the marketing general manager, leaves Porsche for a job at a yacht maker before a review is completed in February 1999. �
February 2007: Mr. Ewanick jumps to VP-marketing at Hyundai Motor America from director-brand planning at Richards Group, Hyundai's agency. Less than a month later, Hyundai goes into review. "We don't have product issues," Mr.�Ewanick tells Ad Age sibling Automotive News. "We have brand issues." �
April 2007: Hyundai hires Goodby. Mr. Ewanick says Goodby's "superb strategic thinking and creative executions" will take Hyundai "to a much higher level." �
September 2008: Hyundai decides to end relationship with Goodby and shift to its global in-house agency in 2009. Goodby works on Hyundai through March 2009. �
March 18, 2010: Mr. Ewanick jumps to VP-marketing of the Nissan division at Nissan North America from VP-marketing at Hyundai Motor America, effective March 22. �
May 5, 2010: Mr. Ewanick ditches Nissan, bolts to General Motors. GM names him VP-U.S. marketing. �
May 20, 2010: Four days before his official start date, Mr. Ewanick announces hiring of Goodby as agency for GM's Chevrolet. This comes just weeks after Publicis Groupe said GM was consolidating Chevrolet at Publicis Worldwide, dropping Interpublic's Campbell-Ewald, which had worked on the brand since 1919. �
June 2010: Mr. Ewanick is said to be moving Cadillac to Publicis Groupe-owned Fallon from Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which won the account in January 2010. �