Crispin, Grey, Hal Riney Among Agencies Chrysler Has Asked for Ideas

Automaker Goes Beyond BBDO for 'Fresh and Creative Ways' to Approach Fourth-Quarter Marketing

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Chrysler has put out its feelers wide, reaching out to as many as 10 agencies ranging from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, WPP's Grey and Publicis Groupe's Hal Riney as part of its fast-moving search for new fourth-quarter creative ideas, according to executives familiar with the situation.

Should Grey prevail, it would put two competing automakers in WPP's holding-company garage: Chrysler and Ford. Not long ago, the idea of two domestic automakers at one holding company would have been unthinkable.

As first reported by Ad Age, embattled Chrysler, in the wake of its alignment with Fiat, is searching for "fresh and creative ways" to approach its marketing, which prompted the company to reach beyond longtime shop BBDO Worldwide for the first time in years. BBDO won national and regional creative duties for the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands in a consolidation move back in 2000.

Agency representatives either declined to comment or couldn't be immediately reached.

A Chrysler Group spokeswoman would only say the company has reached out to "a select group" of agencies, declining to confirm which shops or how many.

Michael Accavitti
Michael Accavitti
She did say that Michael Accavitti -- who moved to president-CEO of the Dodge brand following Chrysler's emergence from bankruptcy -- is leading the process, as he's charged with overseeing all three Chrysler brands and is head of the new company's worldwide marketing organization.

Mr. Accavitti will be joined on the review panel by Peter Fong, president-CEO of the Chrysler vehicle brand, and Michael Manley, his counterpart on Jeep, the spokeswoman added. Executives familiar with the matter said the new creative ideas will be considered at the highest levels of the new auto company, run by CEO of Chrysler and Fiat Sergio Marchionne.

Industry executives said Chrysler is consulting with Alix Partners, the corporate-turnaround specialists who worked with the automaker through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, to help with the pitch. Alix Partners could not immediately comment.

Fiat-style pitch
The smattering of agencies that have been invited to submit ideas suggests that the pitch is progressing Fiat-style; the Italian automaker is known to regularly call "jump balls" that pit a range of agencies one another for marketing assignments.

Fiat works with a variety of shops including leading independent Italian agency Armando Testa, Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett and its Arc Worldwide arm, and WPP's United.

The involvement of WPP in the upcoming Chrysler pitch is especially interesting given the London-based holding company's longstanding relationship with Ford. Grey -- whose chairman-CEO, Jim Heekin, served as exec VP-management director on Chrysler at Bozell Worldwide early in his career -- also does work for another automaker, Seat, a Spanish company owned by the German Volkswagen Group.

Then there's Crispin, which is set to officially split with its Volkswagen client of four years at the end of this year, and according to people familiar with the agency is very eager to fill the vacant auto spot on its client roster after years of working with the Mini and VW brands.

The involvement of Publicis Groupe is a bit thorny too, as Publicis & Hal Riney's sibling agencies, Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide, are Fiat roster shops overseas, but Leo Burnett also works with General Motors' brands here.

BBDO -- whose contract with Chrysler is said to be up in January -- is taking part in the jump ball for fourth-quarter creative and remains the lead on account management and planning, executives said. Media duties, handled by Omnicom's PHD, are not affected by the review.

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