Chrysler Taps Richards Group for Dodge Ram Advertising

Marks First Assignment for Automaker's Fourth-Quarter Ad Work

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DETROIT ( -- Chrysler Group has started to dole out assignments for its fourth-quarter ad work now in review and has tapped independent Richards Group, Dallas, to handle the Dodge Ram brand.

The automaker still hasn't decided the winners for fourth-quarter work for its Chrysler 300 sedan and Chrysler Town & Country minivan, nor the Dodge brand's Journey and Charger, according to three executives close to the matter.

The Jeep brand was not part of the pitch. Chrysler's longtime multicultural agency, GlobalHue, Southfield, Mich., was given the general assignment for the Jeep work several weeks ahead of the presentations last week.

Omnicom Group's BBDO Detroit, Troy, Mich., is the incumbent on Chrysler and created a TV spot for the Chrysler 300 sedan that broke over the weekend in select markets that introduced a new theme, "Connect." But BBDO was given that assignment before the review and the spot was run partly to use airtime that was previously bought by PhD, two other executives close to the matter said.

Other contenders for the fourth-quarter assignments that presented last week include Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco; sibling Fallon, Minneapolis; Omnicom's Cutwater, San Francisco; and MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami. WPP's Grey, New York, was forced to withdraw from the pitch before the Sept. 22 presentations by Ford Motor Co., a major global client of WPP.

Officials from the agencies declined comment, referring questions to Chrysler, but a spokeswoman at the marketer said she was unable to comment on any matters related to the review.

Richards' last car account was Hyundai Motor America, which it handled for five years until the automaker called a review in early 2007 for the national creative account. Richards opted not to defend, but still had the regional dealer account until Hyundai disbanded those groups that year. Ironically, Hyundai's review came just weeks after the arrival of Joel Ewanick as the car company's new VP-marketing from Richards, which had helped the automaker significantly boost sales and market share.

Since exiting from a federally prepared Chapter 11 bankruptcy this summer, Chrysler is now 55% owned by the UAW's medical benefits trust and 20% owned by Italy's Fiat, which can increase its stake to 35% if certain milestones are met and all U.S. taxpayer loans are repaid. The U.S. Treasury and the Canadian government hold the smaller remaining equity stakes.

Chrysler Group has struggled mightily this year with its new-vehicle U.S. sales off by 39% through August to 653,319 units, according to Automotive News. The automaker will report September sales Thursday. Experts predict sales for the month will fall -- possibly to the worst monthly performance all year because of comparisons with Uncle Sam's successful Cash for Clunkers program in August.

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