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Starcom MediaVest Wins GM $3.5 Billion Media Account

Automaker Wants Focus on 'Innovative, Strategic Media Buying'

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DETROIT ( -- General Motors Corp. awarded Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group, Chicago, its $3.5 billion U.S. national and regional media-buying account, the automaker said.

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The account had been with Interpublic Group of Cos.' GM-dedicated agency, General Motors Mediaworks, Detroit. An Interpublic representative referred calls to the marketer. Starcom also bested GM interactive agency Digitas, Boston, which was invited to pitch

Effective Oct. 1
Betsy Lazar, general director of advertising and media operations at the automaker, in a statement said, "Effective Oct. 1, GM Planworks has been selected as the agency of record for GM's entire media buying portfolio in the U.S. This includes national and local broadcast buying, print and digital media."

General Motors Planworks, created in 2000, is Publicis' dedicated media planning and research agency for the automaker. The agency is part of Starcom MediaVest Group.

Ms. Lazar said the automaker will transition its media buying activities "from GM Mediaworks to GM Planworks in the coming months. The transition is scheduled to be complete by Oct. 1."

At that point, Dennis Donlin, president of Planworks, will head the newly combined unit, which will retain the Planworks name. It's unclear what will become of the Mediaworks staff, dedicated as it is to the GM business.

Agency squabbling
Ms. Lazar called the review two months ago. She was weary of the squabbling between GM Mediaworks and GM Planworks, Detroit, according to sources close to the matter.

Her boss, Mark LaNeve, vice president of sales, service and marketing in North America, told early during the review that she came to him seeking his blessing to call the review. He said he trusted her judgment and agreed.

According to the statement, GM put its U.S. media buying assignment up for review to "create a more streamlined and efficient unit with greater focus on innovative, strategic media buying," partly as a response to "changes in the media landscape. ... The consolidation of the buying unit with the Planworks organization will achieve additional operating efficiencies and will improve our ability to act on new solutions to address GM media and marketing issues."

A GM spokesman declined to comment on fees.

2000 consolidated review
Interpublic, which has had GM's buying account since 1994, lost a bid in 2000 for GM's consolidated planning account to Starcom. In recent weeks, Mediaworks relocated its offices from Warren, Mich., to downtown Detroit, just blocks from GM's worldwide headquarters.

Industry insiders have wondered how Starcom will be able to staff up quickly. Mediaworks buys TV ad time from its New York office, while the new Detroit office handles magazines and online. The Detroit magazine sales community is concerned whether those jobs will remain in Michigan or relocate to Chicago or New York, diminishing both their ranks and deals done here.

TV upfront
The move comes during the midst of the TV upfronts, when marketers and broadcasters buy and sell ad time, and as GM is struggling mightily to boost U.S. vehicle sales and market share -- not to mention a return to profitability.

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