NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- For a place called Motor City, Detroit in 2009 saw some significant chunks of automotive business disappear: an estimated $500 million to $1 billion in ad dollars were sucked out of the market and hundreds of agency staffers were left without jobs.
The business that's left Detroit
Getting a gauge on just how much marketing money has fled Detroit is an inexact science given that spending levels today are far lower than they were before the recession hit in late 2007 and measured-spending figures for full year 2009 are not yet in. For the first nine months of 2009, the auto industry spent $8.27 billion in measured media, down 30.1% for the same period the prior year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. And automotive, long the de facto biggest category of advertisers in the nation, was overtaken by retail as the second-biggest ad spending category last year, according to the Ad Age Annual.
One carmaker among the "Big Three" (maybe now a misnomer) that's remained loyal to Detroit is Ford Motor Co., which has kept its advertising for all brands consolidated under WPP's holding-company umbrella. The one that's shown the most wanderlust for shops outside of Detroit is Chrysler.
Before its bankruptcy and prior to its control by Italy's Fiat, Chrysler had virtually of all its ad duties parked in Detroit and its suburbs. That changed in the back half of 2009, when new management transported large pieces of its accounts to other cities. BBDO Detroit in Troy, Michigan, shuttered as a result of the automaker failing to reach agreement on a new contract with the Omnicom Group agency. At least one other Detroit agency office, that of Boston-based Modernista, is expected to close due to the exit of its Cadillac business.
In addition to the brands that migrated to other cities, brands such as GM's Saab and Saturn vanished altogether. The former's agency was McCann in Detroit, while Saturn's shop was Interpublic sibling Deutsch on the West Coast. According to TNS Media Intelligence, measured spending for the two brands in 2008 amounted to more than $200 million.
The exodus of media and creative accounts contribute to what officials in Detroit say is a nearly 30% unemployment rate in the city, but some reports have pegged the figure at far higher. By any measure, however, a devastating blow was dealt in 2009 to an advertising hub that for so long prospered because of a healthy American car market that is now struggling to stay afloat. The map on P. 3 illustrates some of the biggest account shifts out of the Detroit ad market in the 12 months and the ones Detroit has so far managed to hold onto.