Chrysler Prepping New TV Campaign to Help Brand Image

Automaker Taps Gotham to Lure Back Buyers With Spots

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An update has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK ( -- Chrysler is prepping the launch of a corporate branding TV campaign it hopes will help repair its image in the minds of consumers -- and it's hired a new agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham, for the project.

Chrysler and Gotham executives didn't respond to Ad Age requests for comment by press time, but according to one person with knowledge of the work, the ads, which are expected to break in the next few weeks, feature real company employees. The move comes as car makers are looking to emerge from the auto industry's troubles and lure back buyers.

Chrysler has made a host of changes to its marketing relationships. Its entire ad account was handled by Omnicom Group agencies a year ago, but since the company's come under the control of Italy's Fiat, assignments have been parsed out and are now handled by shops throughout the industry.

Independents Wieden & Kennedy and Richards Group handle creative for Dodge cars and Ram trucks, respectively; Southfield, Mich.-based GlobalHue does work for Jeep; Publicis Groupe's Fallon was tapped for work for brand Chrysler; Sapient Nitro handles digital duties across the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler bands and Chrysler Group; Meredith Corp.'s New Media Strategies agency does social-media marketing; and Interpublic's Universal McCann is the media agency across Chrysler's brands.

Detroit has seen a mass exodus of ad business as accounts have been moved out of the Motor City over the last year, but Chrysler has had the most wanderlust, handing work to shops elsewhere in the country.

The hire of Gotham for a new TV campaign is a sign that Chrysler isn't married to its current agency roster and is open to keep shops on their toes with "jump ball" assignments, handing work to whichever agencies it sees fit.

For Gotham's part, the agency seems to be looking for accounts in the car category. It was a finalist in the hotly contested pitch for Cadillac, which ultimately went to Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Gotham previously handled ad work for Mercedes dealer groups.

Chrysler's marketing budget has shrunk dramatically, but it's still more than half a billion dollars in domestic measured media. For all of 2009, it spent $577 million, according to Kantar Media. Between January and February of this year, it spent nearly $120 million on U.S. measured media, and some of that could be related to its Super Bowl buy. Chrysler was also the only American automaker to run a spot in the big game this year.

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UPDATE: May 12 -- A Chrysler representative got back to AdAge the next day. She confirmed the car maker hired New York-based Gotham to conduct research, craft messaging and develop creative ideas for a possible corporate campaign, but would not confirm when or if a campaign would air on television.
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