After the $125 million Mercedes-Benz of North America business suddenly moved to Omnicom's Merkley Newman Harty, New York, last week, auto account veterans were predicting other agencies under the holding company's umbrella have a very good shot at getting more work from the car brand's parent. Mercedes-Benz will eventually consolidate ad accounts outside the U.S., the executives believe.
Adding fuel to that fire is the departure of Jochen Placking, manager of international marketing at DaimlerChrysler, Stuttgart, who left recently to join DDB, Duesseldorf.
Mr. Placking was proud Mercedes-Benz has the best ad agencies in every country -- some 100 outside the U.S., according to a DaimlerChrysler insider. But that executive and others close to the car marketer suggested Mr. Placking's successor, Justus Schneider, would bring a new agency order. Mr. Schneider starts March 15.
The executives also pointed to DaimlerChrysler's new standing (since Daimler-Benz acquired Chrysler Corp. last November) as the world's fourth-largest vehicle maker, predicting it will follow other major competitors and align itself with key agency holding companies.
"At this point we're extremely happy to service Mercedes-Benz of North America," said John Wren, president-CEO of New York-based Omnicom, when asked about the possibility of Omnicom landing a bigger piece of Mercedes' advertising pie. "This is by far the largest relationship we have with Mercedes-Benz."
Omnicom's Clemenger/ BBDO, Melbourne, subsidiary has handled Mercedes in Australia for 16 years. BBDO unit GFMO, Hamburg, is buying media for DaimlerChrysler in Germany, but it once handled all of Europe for Mercedes-Benz. BBDO's PentaCom unit in Troy, Mich., is buying $1.3 billion in U.S. media annually for DaimlerChrysler's recently combined accounts.
Mercedes fired Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, effective April 30, citing concerns over agency management and potential conflicts with sibling shops under Interpublic Group of Cos.' umbrella handling General Motors Corp.
In choosing Merkley, Mercedes opted for Omnicom's smallest boutique, bypassing Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, and GSD&M, Austin, Texas, which have higher-profile creative reputations. It also was a bit of a surprise considering Mercedes' spending, which will nearly double Merkley's current $173 million billings. And although Merkley had a built-in advantage with its New York headquarters, both Goodby and GSD&M would have been willing to open shop there if they had won.
At Merkley, Mercedes shares a roster that includes BellSouth Corp., Forbes, Travelers Group and BMW Motorcycles. It remains to be seen if the latter account will be considered a conflict with Mercedes.
TRUE NORTH'S ROLE
True North Communications, Chicago, was the other contender for Mercedes' North American account. Its Bozell Worldwide, Southfield, Mich., office handles DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler, Jeep and Plymouth brands, and Bozell and CIA Medianetwork, London, handle media for DaimlerChrysler in Europe, except Germany, along with Asia and South America.
"This wasn't a typical review," said Joe Eberhardt, VP-marketing at Mercedes-Benz. He said the marketer met with Omnicom and True North to learn about the companies' structures and capabilities.
Mr. Wren said he doesn't foresee other clients meeting with agency holding company executives when deciding on ad accounts. "This was a unique situation that required a unique solution, and I believe we have the unique solution."