Cadillac Taps Interpublic Team to Handle Global Creative

General Motors to Shift Business to Hill Holliday, Campbell-Ewald, Lowe

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General Motors is prepping a shift of its Cadillac creative account from Publicis Groupe's Fallon in Minneapolis to a team at Interpublic Group of Cos., according to multiple executives familiar with the matter.

Cadillac declined to comment, but the General Motors' luxury division is expected to make a formal announcement within the next 24 hours.

Interpublic pitched with an integrated agency team -- which it dubbed "Rogue" -- composed of Hill Holliday, Campbell-Ewald; and Lowe . Boston-based Hill Holliday will take the lead on creative and strategic work, while Detroit-based Campbell-Ewald will handle account management. Lowe will work on digital advertising and be tapped to export creative for Cadillac around the globe. The agencies involved either couldn't be reached or declined to comment.

Credit: Cadillac is driving from Publicis Groupe to Interpublic.

The account shift is a blow to Fallon, which had worked on the business for nearly three years, after GM's former global CMO Joel Ewanick handed the business to the agency without a review. In a rare move, the agency dumped Chrysler to take on the account.

Following Mr. Ewanick's departure nearly a year ago, GM has unwinded several of the agency relationships he forged in an effort to create more efficiencies with its advertising. The recent moves under interim CMO Alan Batey have been to the benefit of Interpublic.

The Caddy win means that Interpublic now handles a large chunk of creative advertising for top GM brands. McCann handles all of the Chevy business after a consolidation earlier this year at the expense of Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and the Cadillac move brings over another valuable brand. Estimated spending on the business is $250 million.

Publicis Groupe retains creative for GMC and Buick at Leo Burnett, while Carat (now part of Dentsu) handles media duties globally for GM.

The outcome of the Cadillac pitch was anticipated by some industry watchers. Before the pitch commenced in March, rumors circulated in Detroit that Campbell-Ewald -- which has a past long-rooted in Chevy work -- would be handed the Cadillac account without a pitch.

After those reports surfaced, GM swiftly announced it was running a closed review process pitting four contenders against each other. They were: Incumbent Fallon, a team from Publicis Groupe, Omnicom Group's DDB Chicago and a team from Interpublic.

It was clear that GM was unhappy with Fallon, and DDB was a long shot from the outset given it was a single office pitching and Omnicom has few other ties to GM. So the real race came down to the two holding company teams from Publicis Groupe and Interpublic.

Final presentations took place in May in New York with key stakeholders from GM, including VP-Global Bob Ferguson, Director of Advertising Craig Bierley and VP-Marketing Don Butler.

People close to the pitch say there were three key factors that swayed the vote toward Interpublic's favor.

Firstly, Hill Holliday's chief creative officer is Lance Jensen, who was responsible for Cadillac's most popular advertising of the last decade when he was at now-defunct Boston shop Modernista . The music-heavy spots featured actress Kate Walsh. Mr. Jensen earlier in his career did advertising for Volkswagen and Hummer.

Second, it also used Campbell-Ewald on the pitch team, which has a Detroit presence and a history of working with GM -- not to mention the automaker recently hired Steven Majoros from the agency to work on the Caddy brand. The addition of Lowe added a global capability.

And third, the consolidation of creative work at Interpublic, along with the Chevy business at McCann, offers GM efficiencies.

Cadillac is on a roll. GM is reporting the brand's year-to-date sales (January through May) rose 38% to 69,750 -- its biggest increase during that period since 1976. In May, GM's luxury brand grew sales 40% to 13,808 vehicles, its best May performance since 2007.

Cadillac ranks as the nation's No. 4 luxury auto brand in terms of sales, behind Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.

This story has been updated with the name Interpublic is using for its team of agencies: "Rogue."

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