Consolidation ahead

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Ad agencies with major car accounts, prepare for an auto industry trend: the consolidation of global advertising.

Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., learned that last week. General Motors Corp.'s Saab AB in Sweden moved its entire account to Lowe Brindfors, Stockholm, a sibling Interpublic shop that has worked on Saab since 1994. Martin, which won Saab USA's North American account in 1997, worked with Lowe Brindfors to create Saab's first global ads in early `99-the "versus" campaign.

Saab joins other car marketers-including DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group and Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo-in looking to global agencies.

Two heads weren't better than one to service Saab globally, said Kristi August Smith, national ad manager at Saab Cars USA. "It was a slower process than what we were looking for," she said. Saab would contact Martin, which would in turn work with Lowe Brindfors.

Martin still will handle direct mail, plan U.S. media and buy some local media. That could change if Saab decides to use GM's dedicated media planner, GM Planworks, owned by Bcom3 Group. Interpublic's dedicated GM Mediaworks buys much of Saab USA's media.

Saab spent $28 million in measured media during the first nine months of 2000 vs. $29 million in calendar 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Saab sold 39,479 cars in the U.S. last year, the auto industry's best year ever, but Saab's U.S. sales fell by 64 cars, according to Automotive News.

Saab's shift, however, wasn't a money-saving move like Chrysler Group's recent consolidation. The troubled DaimlerChrysler unit last fall moved its consolidated $2.4 billion global creative, media buying and planning to Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Southfield, Mich.

Saab's consolidation follows Ford-owned Volvo's global ad consolidation last summer at New York-based Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG. Before that, Messner and Euro RSCG handled the work in regions outside of Europe.

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