MERCEDES REGIONAL SHIFT MOVES MORE WORK TO SMS

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Mercedes-Benz of North America is joining the pack in restructuring its regional marketing operations. As a result, Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, will pick up an undetermined portion of $30 million in regional work from its subsidiary, the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

In an overhaul that will be in place by Dec. 31, the German importer is setting up a field force of 50 marketing managers to work with dealers on issues including local ad and promotion programs.

Each manager will report to a VP who heads one of the company's six sales regions. Martin, which has been doing Mercedes' regional work, will assign an account manager to each region.

Martin will provide the new marketing managers with selections of tactical advertising consistent with brand strategy, and will also do customized work for the marketing managers, said John Adams, president of Martin.

However, Martin's total volume of Mercedes work will probably be lower, said Mr. Adams. That's because Mercedes is eliminating a level of regional advertising, handled by Martin, under which the importer's six regional VPs had their own marketing budgets.

Lowe currently handles about $90 million in Mercedes business.

Andy Goldberg, general manager-marketing communications for Mercedes, said Martin's future role is "still a matter of discussion." Mr. Goldberg said he expects Lowe will continue to "draw on resources" from Martin.

Other automakers that have instituted regional marketing changes this year include American Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick divisions.

Melanie Wells contributed to this story.

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