Chrysler Group restructures

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DaimlerChrysler's troubled Chrysler Group will reorganize by adding five new regional business centers around the U.S. and moving more advertising, incentives, authority and accountability to the local level.

Joe Casola, formerly Chrysler's VP-corporate marketing, moves to the new post of VP-business center implementation. "We'll be able to do a lot of local marketing actions," he said of the new setup for the Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge brands.

National TV advertising-estimated at $263 million-from Chrysler's agency, Omnicom Group's Pentamark Worldwide, Troy, Mich., is likely to decline, he predicted. "I think we're going to reallocate resources" to move national ad dollars to the regions, he added. Pentamark also creates ads for regional dealer groups, which remain as they are. Mr. Casola said the automaker's overall ad spending will stay the same.

Pentamark has been waiting for the details to see how to react, said an executive close to the matter who asked not to be named.

Pentamark, which won the marketer's estimated $1.8 billion consolidated global creative and media account last fall, didn't return calls seeking comment. But Mr. Casola expects the agency to assign staff to each region: the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest and West. The new setup also will provide an opportunity for more local direct mail and customer relationship management from Omnicom's InterOne Marketing Group, Troy.

The move is part of a "major thrust" in the industry toward regional ads and incentives, said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research. "It will surprise me very much if we don't see more regional targeting in media buys to try to get the greatest value for marketing dollars." Chrysler Group's move is similar to General Motors Corp.'s regional restructuring in January 1999, he said.

Chrysler Group cut 5,000 jobs via early retirements or layoffs this year as part of its German parent's plan to return the unit to profitability. Among those who left was Ken Laurence, who held a series of marketing posts including national ad manager of Chrysler-Plymouth, global media director and international marketing operations director. People inside the automaker wouldn't confirm whether he took early retirement or was let go.

Mr. Casola's former position won't be filled. The marketer has yet to name retail marketing managers, who will move to the regions and work under the five business center managers.

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