GM Europe spurns roster agency for Astra launch

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LONDON - General Motors Europe has spurned its roster agencies McCann- Erickson Worldwide and Lowe Group to name a small London agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, to create the ad campaign for the $60 million relaunch of the Astra across Europe next April.

General Motors was dissatisfied with the creative work for the Astra campaign offered by Lowe, GM's agency in the U.K. and Germany, and McCann, which handles the rest of Europe. GM invited other agencies to submit creative ideas to be tested.

"We had a very long period of creative development with McCann and Lowe," says Patrick Dunster, Zurich-based director of advertising at General Motors Europe. "They were aware this product means everything to GM in Europe. We were not totally satisfied (with the creative work)."

GM tested creative work submitted by Lowe, McCann, Rainey Kelly and Saatchi & Saatchi's Frankfurt office. GM also talked to HHCL and M&C Saatchi, both London, and a local German agency, but none of the three survived the first round of talks.

Although GM Europe has confirmed the Rainey appointment, GM's largest market, Germany, is still testing the Saatchi work. Agency execs say Germany is frequently in conflict with GM's international headquarters in Zurich.

"Germany has one or two issues still to be resolved but the Rainey work is still the strongest," Mr. Dunster says.

GM sold 498,614 Astra cars in Europe this year through October, according to Automotive News Europe figures. The Astra competes mainly against Volkswagen's Golf and Ford Motor Co.'s Mondeo models. The Golf and Astra brands were Europe's No. 2 and 3 best-selling models after the Fiat Punto through the first ten months of 1997.

M.T. Rainey, managing partner of Rainey Kelly, says the agency pitched to about 25 GM execs at different meetings over a two- month period.

Mr. Dunster says GM approached Rainey Kelly "primarily because of M.T. Rainey's reputation as an excellent strategic thinker and her young agency's reputation for strong creative work for clients like Virgin."

Ms. Rainey started her ideas-oriented, fee- based agency in 1993 and works for Allied Domecq Spirits & Wines and MTV networks as well as Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Cola and Virgin Vodka.

The Astra decision is a bitter blow for Interpublic, which over the last year has set up a joint McCann-Lowe strategic unit in Zurich called the Brand Communication Group to manage European assignments.

"A committee of (GM) people looked at many, many campaigns and decided what to test," says Garry Neel, IPG's Zurich-based senior VP and general manager in charge of the Brand Communication Group.

He says IPG will buy media and handle dealers and other work for the Astra re-launch. "A launch TV commercial is only the tip of the iceberg," Mr. Neel says. "We continue to be the strategic partner for the Astra brand team."

Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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