Williams lands GM

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Two major African-American car accounts are shifting. Nissan North America's Nissan Division will soon start an African-American creative agency review after independent Carol H. Williams Advertising, Oakland, Calif., resigned the account, a Nissan spokeswoman said.

Williams Advertising was named creative and strategic agency of record for General Motors Corp.'s first consolidated African-American creative account Jan. 4. The account is five times larger than Nissan's, with annual agency revenues of $3 million and estimated billings of $20 to $30 million.

GM is consolidating all its multicultural accounts, said Judy Hu, executive director of advertising and marketing strategy at GM. Previ-ously, assignments were made by brand. She declined to give details but acknowledged the marketer "always takes a look at our roster shops within [Interpublic Group of Cos.] and Bcom 3 [Group]. We probably saw originally six, maybe more, in here for a credentials pitch" for the African-American business.

According to executives close to the client, finalists included two other independents: E. Morris Communications, Chicago, which has worked on Oldsmobile since early 1997, and Chisholm Mingo Group, New York, a GMC truck agency.

E. Morris has already received a notice of termination, said a spokesman for the Oldsmobile division, which GM is closing. "It's all part of the winding down of our marketing activities."

Nearly all agency executives involved with the review declined comment.

Ms. Williams, president-CEO of Carol H. Williams Advertising, said the GM account will be "a full-service piece of business that includes events and promotions." Media buying will be done by GM's dedicated agency, Interpublic's GM Mediaworks, Warren, Mich., and planning by Bcom3's GM Plan-works, Detroit.

Executives close to the matter cited Ms. Williams' past business relationship with Michael Jackson, who joined GM a year ago as exec director-sales support, from Coors Brewing Co., a Williams client. However, Ms. Williams said Mr. Jackson was never her direct client at Coors.

Mr. Jackson was on the review panel, Ms. Hu said. He is also co-chief with Ms. Hu of GM's Center for Expertise on Diversity, formed last May to reach women, youth and multicultural consumers. Ms. Hu said the group has "a dedicated [ad] budget for 2002."

A month after the unit was formed, GM consolidated its estimated $3 million Asian ad account at Link Online Group's Innovasia Communications, Los Angeles.

GM in 2001 consolidated its Hispanic advertising with Accent-marketing, Miami, partly owned by Interpublic.

Ms. Hu's diversity unit also named Bcom3's urban marketing agency Vigilante, New York, to GM's first youth account in nontraditional media.

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