Chrysler in Talks With Media Agencies

Move Points to Strain in Relationship With Omnicom

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NEW YORK ( -- Chrysler has been out talking to media agencies on its more than $1 billion advertising account, the latest sign the automaker's longstanding relationship with Omnicom Group has deteriorated, according to executives familiar with the matter.

The talks, which Chrysler is having with media agencies at holding companies such as Aegis and others, could result in a massive blow to Omnicom-owned PHD, which serves as media agency of record for all three of Chrysler's major car brands: Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.

According to one person familiar with the situation, Chrysler has been briefing agencies, anticipating a pitch in a few weeks.

Representatives for the automaker declined to comment, citing a quiet period the company is in until next month, when it plans to roll out a new five-year business plan. Agency representatives either declined to comment or could not be immediately reached.

Chrysler, now controlled by Italy's Fiat and under a new global marketing chief in Olivier Francois, is clearly on a mission to shake up its roster of agency partners. It recently reached beyond its longtime creative agency, Omnicom's BBDO, to ask Dallas-based independent Richards Group to craft ads, and it may dole out assignments to more shops.

Chrysler last year ranked among the top 50 advertisers in the U.S., and while it still has a sizable budget, the automaker has slashed marketing spend amid the downturn.

Domestic measured media spending fell 35% to $1.1 billion in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The biggest drop in media spending was for the Jeep brand, which fell more than 60%, according to Ad Age's DataCenter.

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