Fiat Chrysler's Jeep Searches For New Lead Agency

Automaker Also Seeking AOR For Alfa Romeo

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Fiat Chrysler Automobile's Jeep brand is looking for a new agency of record.

The brand hasn't had a lead agency since it parted ways with GlobalHue earlier this year, and has been instead leaning on its extensive roster for work in recent months.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA, brands include Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. FCA as it exists now was formed in January 2014 after Fiat, the automaker based in Turin, Italy, acquired 100% ownership of Chrysler Group. Fiat first bought a majority stake of Chrysler Group in 2009.

"I can confirm that FCA U.S. has, or will be issuing, creative briefs for AOR agencies for Alfa Romeo and Jeep brands," said a spokeswoman for the company.

FCA will soon launch a new Alfa Romeo car called Giulia, which was unveiled in June and is slated to go to market next spring. Alfa Romeo re-entered the U.S. in 2014. According to people familiar with the matter, as many as 10 agencies pitched ideas for the sedan's launch, though they're still awaiting a decision on the winner.

It's worth noting that the company has increasingly been asking agencies to participate in jump-ball pitches for various brands, in some cases by make or model. The company will sometimes invite agencies on one brand to pitch for another, or even invite outside agencies to throw in ideas. People familiar with FCA said that the pitches are internally led.

Despite the company's penchant for jump-balls and a large roster of shops, it still maintains a lead agency relationship with Wieden & Kennedy for Chrysler and Dodge -- though those brand's aren't immune to a shootout every now and then.

The company spokeswoman added: "In recent months, our current roster of agencies have created new Jeep advertising. It's also important to note that although we have AORs for most of our brands, CMO Olivier Francois welcomes creative ideas from all our global agencies for all brands."

Jeep has been an advertiser in the Super Bowl in recent years, known for GlobalHue's spot featuring Bob Dylan in 2014. Richards Group created one called "Beautiful Lands" featuring Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," promoting the Jeep Renegade for this year's game.

Other agencies on the FCA roster include Interpublic's media agency UM; Doner, which handles retail work for multiple brands; Richards Group, which works on Fiat and Ram; George P. Johnson on experiential; and McGarryBowen on Maserati. Earlier this year, the company put its digital business for brands like Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep into review, and incumbent SapientNitro was expected to defend.

The opportunity to work on Jeep is also significant because the company is in the midst of a five-year plan to grow the brand globally. By 2018, Jeep expects to sell 1.9 million vehicles annually, up from just over 1 million in 2014. Last year marked the fifth consecutive year of sales increases for Jeep, both in the U.S. and globally.

Jeep President-CEO Mike Manley told the Detroit News earlier this year that 2015 is a "transformative year," as the company will be launching localized production in China and Brazil.

FCA is the nation's eighth-largest advertiser with $2.25 billion in both measured and unmeasured media spending last year, according to Ad Age's Datacenter. Jeep is FCA's biggest brand by U.S. measured media spending, according to Kantar Media. In 2014, the brand spent about $278.6 million, while runner-up Dodge spent close to $267.8 million. Ram spent $238.2 million and Chrysler spent $225.5 million.

FCA a few weeks ago announced a formal recall of 1.4 million vehicles to correct a software glitch that allowed professional hackers to take control of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee via the Uconnect radio.

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