MULLEN'S CONSUMER SAVVY WINS GM USED-CAR ACC'T: AD BUDGET MAY REACH $40 MIL AS MORE DEALERS JOIN PROGRAM

By Published on .

General Motors Corp. executives said the Mullen agency's brand-building and strategic development abilities put it over the top to win the automaker's used-car account last week.

The Wenham, Mass., shop will build GM's new Certified Used Vehicle program from scratch into a national brand for Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac-GMC.

1,500 DEALERS BY FALL

So far, 400 dealers have enrolled in the program, but it is expected to hit 1,500 by the time the first advertising appears this fall.

The CUV account is expected to grow to some $40 million in billings as the program expands. The program goes head-to-head with growing used-car superstores such as AutoNation USA and CarMax.

"One of the things Mullen brought to the table was a strong focus on strategic development and understanding consumer insights," said Dean Rotundo, communications manager of marketing and advertising at GM's North American Operations.

He said all the estimated 7,000 dealers for the four brands included in CUV could join the program.

Among the agency's challenges will be figuring out how to best support and build the brand with regional media as dealers join the program, said CEO Jim Mullen.

Advertising will eventually go national, and Mullen likely will open a service office in Detroit.

Mr. Mullen said "a very significant part of our work is with brand development," noting that the shop has done brand development work-not ads-for the Disney Channel, ABC, Lifetime Television and Buena Vista Television.

To prepare for GM's pitch, Mullen account planners virtually lived with about a dozen New England families considering buying used cars or trucks. "We found out the way people perceive used cars," Mr. Mullen said.

3 OTHER SEMIFINALISTS

Mullen beat out three other semifinalists for the account: GM's corporate agency, N.W. Ayer & Partners, New York; Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis; and TP Partnership, Dallas. GM invited 12 agencies to pitch the account; W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., and three others declined to participate, a Doner insider said. He said Doner cited its Ford Division dealer work in rejecting the invitation. Doner declined to comment.

Mullen handled BMW of North America until the agency's dismissal in March 1995.

Here's a twist: United Auto Group and AutoNation both have GM new-car dealerships along with their own used-car superstores and will thus be eligible for the CUV program.

In this article:
Most Popular