GM Brands Shuffle Multicultural Strategy

Chevy African-American Account in Play; Carol H. Williams to Defend

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Six of General Motors Corp.'s eight vehicle brands are shifting strategies for how they handle multicultural advertising.
The 2008 Chevy Malibu.
The 2008 Chevy Malibu.

In what a spokeswoman called a new approach to diversity marketing, two brands -- Cadillac and Hummer -- will move responsibility for African-American advertising to its general-market agency, independent Modernista, Boston, Jan. 1.

The brands' incumbent, Carol H. Williams Advertising, Oakland, Calif., is also defending Chevrolet's African-American account, which is in a review handled by consultant Hasan Ramusevic, Raleigh, N.C. A decision is expected by the end of the year, the GM spokeswoman said.

Other Chevy shops
In addition to Williams, Chevrolet had used Translation, New York, mostly for consulting and relationship building, and its general-market shop, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., which did the brand's African-American launch work for the 2008 Malibu, the spokeswoman said.

Williams also will lose GMC, which it won in a 2002 review when GM consolidated its African-American accounts. At the time, total estimated billings were $20 million to $30 million with revenue estimated at $3 million. (The GM spokeswoman declined to reveal spending on any of the accounts.)

Vigilante Advertising, New York, under the umbrella of Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, will assume duties on GMC next year. Vigilante already has Buick's and Pontiac's African-American accounts. Chicago-based Burnett will manage the accounts, the spokeswoman said.

Burnett assumed the newly consolidated Buick-Pontiac-GMC general-market accounts Oct. 1, winning the business without a review following negotiations between Publicis chief Maurice Levy and top GM executives, according to execs close to the matter.

The main purpose of the reshuffle is to consolidate business at Publicis agencies. According to agency execs, GM wants a single bill from Publicis for the Buick-Pontiac-GMC division.

GM would not discuss the reasons for the shifts, but said it was not done as a cost-cutting move. Agencies, however, expect cost efficiencies to be extracted.

Changes to Hispanic accounts
There also will be changes on the Hispanic front.

AccentMarketing, Miami, will lose Pontiac and GMC accounts to Lapiz, Chicago, a Burnett sibling. Lapiz will also assume Buick's Hispanic account. Buick had no Hispanic agency. Burnett also will oversee those Hispanic accounts.

AccentMarketing, which won GM's consolidated Hispanic accounts in 2001, keeps GM's corporate Hispanic account, as well as Cadillac, Hummer and Chevrolet.

Neither Saturn nor Saab had any multicultural agencies of records, with the brands' general-market shops handling. Interpublic's Deutsch, Los Angeles, handles Saturn, while sibling McCann, Birmingham, Mich., will assume Saab's account Jan. 1 from sibling Lowe, New York, in a previously announced shift.

GM spent a total of $66 million in Hispanic measured media across its vehicle brands last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Chevrolet got the most, $43 million, TNS said.

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Editor's Note: This report corrects an earlier news story headlined "Five GM Brands to Shift Multicultural Work to General-Market Shops." The earlier story has been deleted from our archives.