Agencies Invited to Pitch for New Ion Launch

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DETROIT ( -- General Motors Corp.'s Saturn brand will invite ad agencies to pitch for next fall's launch of its new Ion car and coupe, a spokesman told

Incumbent Publicis Groupe's Publicis Hal Riney & Partners,

San Francisco, will participate in the review, which is only for the new model, the spokesman said.

Jill Lajdziak, vice president of sales, service and marketing at Saturn, told dealers today via fax she will invite advertising agencies to pitch for next fall's launch of the new Ion car and coupe.

Saturn only has two model lines, the long-standing small S-Series and midsize L-Series, which bowed in mid-1999. Of the $312.5 million Saturn spent in measured media last year, $180 million was for the L-Series, which was in its first full year of launch ads.

The spokesman declined to reveal the size of the account.

Crucial launch
The Ion launch is crucial because it replaces brand's best-seller, the S-Series line. The new model will also chase 30-something buyers, younger than Saturn's current 40-something owners.

Ms. Lajdziak wasn't available for comment.

The spokesman said the move isn't a sign Saturn is unhappy with Riney, which has had the brand's account since it bowed in 1990 as a 1991 model or any concern about its parent, Publicis Groupe, and other potential car account conflicts. He declined to name potential contenders and said there is no consultant.

Flubbed last line
Saturn flubbed the launch of the L-Series. Riney's ads didn't go far enough to explain the cars' bigger size vs. the S-Series, and the agency had to create new executions several months after the launch.

GM has gone to non-roster agencies in the past for assignments, so the move isn't unprecedented.

Lisa Sanders contributed to this report.