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Chairman John Smale's idea of "one voice" advertising is moving closer to reality at General Motors Corp.

Oldsmobile is the latest division to develop an approved menu of agencies for its dealer ad groups to use for regional advertising. Meanwhile, Chevrolet is debating whether to adopt the consolidation procedure put in place by Pontiac, Buick and GMC Truck before Oldsmobile.

The process involves setting guidelines and screening agencies. Regional dealer ad groups must hire one of the approved agencies to get marketing support funds from the division.

The aim is to produce regional advertising that reinforces national brand-building efforts. Mr. Smale, the former Procter & Gamble Co. chairman, is the driving force behind the sweeping reorganization of the way an estimated $700 million in regional advertising is spent.

"We had so many agencies representing the brand that we were unable to truly go to the marketplace with one voice," said Bill Nicholson, Oldsmobile's director-consumer marketing. "We suffered from a lack of continuity and an inefficiency in spending."

Eighty-five agencies represented Olds dealer groups as recently as early 1993. An initial consolidation effort led by regional marketing executives reduced the number to 41 shops, but Olds decided that was still an unwieldy number.

A panel of Olds marketing executives and dealers sent a questionnaire to the remaining agencies and eventually heard presentations from 13. Seven agencies made the final cut: N.W. Ayer & Partners, Chicago; Hughes, Ruch & Murphy, Brookfield, Wis.; Lord, Sullivan & Yoder, Columbus, Ohio; Moroch & Associates, Dallas; Partners & Shevack, New York; Roberts & Russell, Knoxville, Tenn.; and Trainor & Associates, New Hartford, N.Y.

Olds' national agency, Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, wasn't in the running. That's a change from the pattern of other GM divisions that have gone through regional ad consolidations. Larry Pryg, Olds national field marketing manager, said the division wants Burnett to work with the regional agencies rather than compete with them.

Chevrolet national agency Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., last year signed up 12 dealer ad groups that agreed to a one-year test. Chevrolet gave those dealer groups extra ad funding as an incentive, a move that stirred controversy with other regional ad agencies. So far in 1995, dealer groups in Minneapolis and Oklahoma City have extended Campbell-Ewald to the end of the year.

Jeff Hurlbert, Chevrolet's general marketing manager, said the division this fall will evaluate whether to continue offering incentives for dealers to use Campbell-Ewald. Chevy is considering adapting the sort of consolidation process that other GM divisions have gone through, Mr. Hurlbert said.

Cadillac is taking a different tack in its drive for "one-voice" advertising, said Frank Liebgott, director-dealer marketing.

Cadillac is paying production costs for regional commercials created by national agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Bloomfield Hills. As a result, 87% of the funds spent by regional ad groups on TV this year has gone for DMB&B-created advertising.

Fifty-four local agencies handle media and events marketing, an important part of Cadillac's targeted efforts to reach luxury car buyers.

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