GM Opens Global Review With Eye Toward Consolidation

Process Could Take Year to Complete; Ewanick Says North American Agency Lineup Is Stable

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*This story has been updated to reflect a statement GM sent Ad Age after publication denying a global review of its advertising agencies is taking place.

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- General Motors has kicked off a review of its global agency partners, with an eye at consolidating the automaker's relationships with advertising agencies outside of the U.S., GM's Joel Ewanick told Ad Age.

GM ranks as the fourth largest advertiser in the world, with $3.27 billion in measured media spending; about one-third of that figure comes from outside the U.S., according to Ad Age's DataCenter.

The review will largely concentrate on streamlining the partners handling ad duties around the world for GM's biggest brand, Chevrolet, which is marketed in 130 countries and sold an estimated 4.3 million vehicles globally last year. But agency relationships for other brands under the GM umbrella could be examined too. The process is in the early stages and is expected to take nearly a year to complete, Mr. Ewanick told Ad Age while on a whirlwind press tour in New York along with Chris Perry, who took over Mr. Ewanick's former role as U.S. VP-marketing at GM.

The duo, who worked together at Hyundai, are in the Big Apple promoting GM's plans for the Super Bowl this coming weekend, in which the car company will have an inescapable presence thanks to a total of eight 30-second spots positioned around the event.

Three major advertising holding companies and a handful of global agency networks work with GM around the world. Among them are: Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann, DraftFCB and Lowe; Publicis Groupe's Publicis and Leo Burnett; and WPP's Y&R.

One agency that could stand to benefit from the process? McCann in Brazil, which is churning out work for Chevrolet that Mr. Ewanick said he's particularly proud of and is confident could translate easily into other markets. One goal of the review process, the marketer said, is to concentrate work with agencies that going forward could lead worldwide launches of products for GM rather than launching new cars on a regional basis.

The move comes shortly after Mr. Ewanick, 50, was promoted to global chief marketing officer having clocked just about nine months at the Detroit-based auto giant. He's already largely finished putting his stamp on the automaker's North American roster of ad shops.

After landing at GM last May, he made a flurry of agency changes -- notably, without conducting reviews -- that resulted in Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners becoming the lead creative agency for Chevrolet in North America and Publicis Groupe's Fallon taking on lead creative duties for the Cadillac brand. Mr. Ewanick said he believes the relationships with his current North American lineup is stable.

After publication, GM contacted Ad Age with this statement: "Contrary to reports in Advertising Age, General Motors is not conducting a review of its global advertising agencies and has no plans to consolidate global agencies. GM is always looking for ways to collaborate and coordinate among our global partners, but we are not conducting a review process and there are no plans for global consolidation."

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