Chrysler shift gives brand VPs ad control

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Chrysler Group is scrapping its year-old marketing organization in a move to create "a single point of authority" for each of its three vehicle brands, giving marketing VPs direct control over budgets, including advertising.

The new structure immediately replaces the one established last summer within months after the arrival from Ford Motor Co. of Jim Schroer, exec VP-sales and marketing, and George Murphy, senior VP-global brand marketing.

That system called for product planners to handle all aspects of new models until 18 months before launch, when it was turned over to the marketing teams for advertising and pricing. "There was some strain and tension in the system" under the old setup, Mr. Schroer said. "We made it work, but there was redundancy."

familiar approach

The new organization resembles Chrysler's platform-team approach initiated in the late 1980s that grouped staff together by model types, like minivans or small cars, for example. That system was replaced last year by the new management.

"To administer product development properly, you set up the organization by vehicle architecture," said Richard Schaum, exec VP-product development and quality.

The reorganization was reported first on AdAge.com on June 18 and announced by Chrysler on June 20. It creates three marketing VP positions aligned by vehicle brand who manage brands through the entire process. Tom Marinelli, 50, formerly VP, Chrysler-Jeep global brand center, will now oversee just Chrysler. Jeff Bell, 40, moves from VP-marketing communications overseeing advertising for Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep to VP-Jeep marketing. His former job is eliminated. Darryl Jackson, 41, was promoted to VP-Dodge marketing from truck marketing manager at the brand. Jim Julow, 49, VP-Dodge global brand center, moves to VP marketing-motor sports.

direct control

The marketing VPs will have direct control over budgets for their brands, including advertising. Under the outgoing, year-old structure, the global brand manager center VPs didn't control ad budgets.

As a result of the changes, the prominence of Mr. Bell, who is leading Chrysler's urban-marketing review, will apparently wane. Before, he oversaw all the brands' ad accounts, serviced by Omnicom Group's BBDO Detroit, Troy, Mich. Now he handles Jeep, which spent the least of the automaker's three brands last year. Jeep was supported with $240 million in measured media vs. $492 million for Dodge and $450 million for the Chrysler brand, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

A spokeswoman at BBDO said the changes will have a "minimal impact" on the shop, which is already aligned by Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge brand teams.

Tom Barenboim, a Massachusetts Chrysler-Jeep dealer on the national executive dealer committee, said he likes the new organization. "It gets more senior talent more focused on the individual brands." He added that it makes sense for the marketing VPs to keep control over their brands "from cradle to grave."

Five new product-planning directors will have dual reports-to the marketing VPs on brand issues and to product team VPs on vehicle planning matters.

"This is all about effectiveness," Mr. Schroer said. "There's no head count reduction by any significant level."

more moves

As a result of the shifts, Jay Kuhnie moves to Jeep as marketing communications manager from the same title at Chrysler. His successor hasn't been announced, but Mr. Schroer confirmed a report from an executive close to the automaker that Mr. Kuhnie's replacement may come from the Stuttgart, Germany, headquarters of parent DaimlerChrysler AG. Julie Roehm remains at Dodge as marketing communications manager.

Van Bussman, senior VP-global forecasting at consultancy J.D. Power & Associates and former chief economist at Chrysler, said a year may not be long enough to know if a system is working. "But it might be long enough to know it's not working."

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