Shifting gears in automotive world: Shuffle at Chrysler shop

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Two BBDO Worldwide veterans with key roles on the Chrysler Group account are stepping down as the automotive marketer aggressively seeks changes in advertising for its brands, particularly Dodge.

Tom Clark, one of three vice chairmen of BBDO Worldwide, who is based in Troy, Mich., will retire Sept. 1 after 33 years at the agency. "I've got some other things I want to do, including traveling," said Mr. Clark, who turns 65 this month.

Mr. Clark's pending retirement follows that of Dick Johnson, chairman-chief creative officer of BBDO, Troy, who retired June 26.

Under Mr. Clark, BBDO won Chrysler's consolidated $2.4 billion global creative and media account last year in a shootout with FCB Worldwide, then part of True North Communications and now owned by Interpublic Group of Cos. BBDO is owned by Omnicom Group.

BBDO's Troy office is officially defunct, recently replaced by PentaMark Worldwide, a dedicated Chrysler agency dubbed by some as "PentaClark" because it embodied Mr. Clark's vision. Mike Vogel was elevated to chairman-CEO of the new PentaMark in December from president-CEO of FCB.

Allen Rosenshine, chairman-CEO of BBDO Worldwide, said Mr. Clark's mission "was to provide a transition to the new setup at PentaMark," which he said has been accomplished. "Mike Vogel is in place as the chairman and CEO. His organization beneath him has been set up."

Mr. Johnson was responsible for the consistent look and tone of Dodge's advertising over the last decade. He returned to BBDO for the third time in 1991 at Mr. Clark's behest. "We had an awful good run-10 years," said Mr. Johnson. He said he didn't know what his future plans were and declined to comment further.

The award-winning Dodge campaigns Mr. Johnson oversaw were widely respected and copied within the automotive industry. But Chrysler Group, the U.S. arm of DaimlerChrysler, has not been happy with recent ads for the brand.

George Murphy, senior VP-global brand marketing at Chrysler Group, said the "Dodge Different" campaign "really didn't communicate what the brand stood for," adding that it didn't offer enough product information and had no emotional hook. He and Chrysler executives have been vocal in recent months about the need to change Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep ads, and have enlisted at least two marketing consultants.

There has even been buzz that PentaMark might be in danger of losing the account. Mr. Vogel dismissed such talk as "just rumors" he believes were sparked by the naming of new executives at Chrysler.

At PentaMark, Bill Morden, former FCB executive creative director on Jeep and Chrysler, will succeed Mr. Johnson and oversee all three Chrysler Group brands. Three creative directors will work under him, one dedicated to each brand.

Mr. Johnson worked at eight agencies over his 36-year career and handled other car accounts, including Jeep, Buick and Pontiac. The adman, now in his late 50s, introduced "The New Dodge" ad campaign for the 1992 Intrepid. It was the start of Dodge's umbrella ad effort.

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