Which to Pitch? Ad Age's Auto-Account Guide

We Handicap 15 Car Brands From Most to Least Desirable

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- You might think that having an auto account isn't what it used to be. Not only is the industry having its worst year in decades, but two of the top domestic companies have been in bankruptcy, and most automakers are cutting fees and marketing costs.

Yet car brands are still highly coveted for their size (regular new-product blitzes more or less guarantee a certain level of spending), visibility and scope of work. Some lucky shops even get to handle lucrative regional dealer ads and collateral. Since many auto advertisers still rely heavily on TV, agencies are also able to build a little extra margin into the business.

"Car companies still have among the largest advertising/marketing budgets in the industry," said Cameron McNaughton, auto consultant at TreeFarm Partners. "Certainly revenue is important, but the visibility afforded an agency with an automotive account is also part of the equation."

"A car account always has been a rite of passage in the world of agencies," said Jon Bond, co-chairman of Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners. "It's like being a made man in the Mafia, but ... today, you can get whacked the next week."

He's not kidding. This year is starting to look like 2006 and 2007, when seven auto brands either held reviews or moved accounts totaling $1 billion over a 12-month period. Today, Volkswagen of America is in the midst of a review for its creative account; General Motors Co.'s Saturn brand has no agency of record; and Chrysler Group is looking for a shop. And pundits say the stage is set for more changes. "We're on the cusp of another cycle of car reviews," predicted Tony Kuhn, executive partner of consultant Kelmenson, Davis & Associates.

But which car account would you want? Which are real prizes, and which are more trouble than they're worth? Here, Ad Age handicaps 15 car brands, ranked below from most to least desirable.

Auto Account Guide

Click on each image for more information
Mercedes Benz Mercedes Benz MERCEDES BENZ Ford Ford FORD Infiniti Infiniti INFINITI
Mini Cooper Mini Cooper MINI COOPER Jeep Jeep JEEP Saturn Saturn SATURN
Madza Mazda MAZDA Toyota Toyota TOYOTA Acura Acura ACURA
Kia Kia KIA Volvo Volvo VOLVO Buick Buick BUICK
* As measured by TNS Media Intelligence

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Contributing: Rupal Parekh

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