The General Motors Corp. division is seeking a shop for a crucial fall 2002 launch that could account for the lion's share of Saturn's estimated $300 million budget. Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney has been invited to participate.
Jill Lajdziak, VP-sales, service and marketing, informed dealers via a fax Nov. 14. She was unavailable for comment, as was Patricia Henry, national advertising manager. Riney, which launched the division in 1990, declined to comment.
A spokesman at Saturn said agency-selection criteria are still in the works for the review, which was first reported on AdAge.com. He declined to discuss the budget.
But next fall's launch of the Ion sedan and coupe could account for the bulk of Saturn spending. One clue: The marketer spent $180 million in measured media in 2000 for the first full year of its crucial mid-size L-Series out of Saturn's total spending of $312.5 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.
The new small car replaces Saturn's original S-Series, which accounted for more than 60% of sales from January through October, according to Ad Age sibling Automotive News.
Agencies wouldn't comment, but shops seen as likely contenders include Berlin Cameron & Partners, New York, which has handled major GM projects; Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, which will lose GM's Oldsmobile account when the brand folds; Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which handles GM-backed American Isuzu Motors; Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore; and three Interpublic Group of Cos. shops.
The three Interpublic shops are Bozell, former agency on Chrysler Group's Jeep and Chrysler brands; Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, whose closed Southfield, Mich., office inherited those Chrysler brands before losing them in a shootout and whose Orange County, Calif., office once handled Mazda; and McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich., which handles GM's Buick account and formerly had GMC trucks.
An executive close to GM, who asked not to be named, predicted GM will tap a non-roster shop since the last account it awarded, for its Hummer brand, went to independent Modernista!, Boston.
Riney's folksy ads largely defined the brand. But the agency found itself under the gun with the troubled launch of L-Series in mid-1999.
Ron Marofer, an Akron, Ohio- area Saturn dealer who is on the review panel, estimated 10 agencies will be invited to pitch. "It's been 12 years with the same agency, and we have a pretty exciting portfolio of new products coming," he said. "We just wanted to be sure we get the best creative. Riney has been a great partner."
It's rare for GM to call reviews for major projects, but not without precedent. GM has sought other shops when either brands or agencies were in trouble. Last fall, flailing Oldsmobile held a review for a division brand campaign. The pitch was scrapped three days after GM announced it was killing Olds.
Berlin Cameron was tapped for the late 1998 launch of the Cadillac Escalade when Bcom3's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy, Mich., was in the hot seat. Pontiac-GMC tapped Interpublic's then-Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, in 1996 as creative consultant for the GMC Jimmy SUV and, for a short-term assignment, Pontiac Grand Am. GMC, at the time, was unhappy with McCann, which lost the account without review to Ammirati in fall 1997. Pontiac wasn't pleased at the time with D'Arcy creative.
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo, Lisa Sanders, Rich Thomaselli