Fiat holds jump-ball bid for business

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[London] Fiat, the struggling Italian automaker, is pitting its roster agencies and at least one outsider-London-based independent Mother-against each other in a bid to restore flagging sales. Fiat will slash the shortlist for the European launch of its Punto and the Alfa Romeo 159 to two agencies who are scheduled to go head-to-head in a final showdown on July 14.

Mother was asked to present ideas to Fiat in competition with roster shops Leo Burnett, WPP Group's Red Cell, and Italian independent shops Armando Testa and Saffirio Tortelli Vigoriti. In the past, Red Cell handled Fiat's Alfa Romeo brand, Testa was Lancia's agency and Fiat brand launches pitted Leo Burnett against D'Arcy, before D'Arcy was bought by Publicis Groupe and merged into Burnett offices in Europe. Now, like other marketers such as Coca-Cola, Fiat makes most launches a jump-ball contest among its agencies, and invites non-roster shops such as Mother to join in. Fiat executives did not return calls.

Eight different Leo Burnett offices are believed to have participated in the pitch, as well as a WPP offering including Red Cell, and the two Italian agencies. Turin-based Saffirio Tortelli Vigoriti was opened last year by three former D'Arcy execs who were the worldwide account director, planner and creative director on the agency's Fiat business. Unhappy with D'Arcy's merger with Burnett, they opened their own agency, picking up much of D'Arcy's business, and have already pitched for and won major Fiat assignments.

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