Drama in Detroit

There's a drama playing out in the Detroit ad market right now that some are saying is only the beginning of a change in trends in automotive advertising. Shifting of accounts with no consideration for the creative work is of grave concern to the tightly knit Detroit ad community.

I have cut and pasted an article from reuters.com below but would be interested in what those of you outside of the turmoil think of the situation, or if you care. Please post comments. More information (although biased) can be found at the autoextremist's site and many other press released can be found at ad age and PR NewsWire.

NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Advertising company Omnicom Group Inc. (OMC) promised to hire key executives from competitor True North Communications Inc. (TNO) to win $1.5 billion in advertising business from automaker Chrysler Group, the Wall Street Journal reported in its electronic edition Monday.

Earlier this month, Chicago-based True North's ad agency group, FCB Worldwide, lost the Chrysler advertising account to Omnicom unit BBDO Worldwide. True North estimated it would lose $140 million in annual revenues from losing the Chrysler account, which it held for 21 years.

In order to win the Chrysler account, BBDO Worldwide officials had to agree to hire the top people at True North's FCB Worldwide, the paper said.

As a result, Mike Vogel, president and chief executive of FCB Detroit, will serve as the new chairman and chief executive of Omnicom's new PentaMark unit, which will handle the consolidated Chrysler account, the paper said, citing an internal BBDO memo.

Chrysler's marketing team pushed Omnicom to give Vogel the top job, the paper reported, citing people familiar with the negotiations. "We went after him from the beginning," the paper quoted a person at Chrysler as saying. "Mike is the key to bringing over the top talent at FCB."

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deke's picture

"In order to win the Chrysler account, BBDO Worldwide officials had to agree to hire the top people at True North's FCB Worldwide."

So Chrysler was happy with the people working on the account, just not the agency? Maybe they wanted to restructure the fees and FCB wasn't willing. Maybe they just got a better deal with BBDO. Who knows? Automotive advertising is HUGE business, and I think a lot of it comes down to the production level. Who can do it the best, the fastest, for the least amount of money? And who has the greater media clout to get the best deals? FCB is a great agency, but Chrysler will do just fine with BBDO's creative efforts. I imagine that had to be considered. And I imagine they felt very comfortable with BBDO's reputation for great work.

Peter, to your comments regarding the creative output on this side of the water, I don't dispute that Europe creates more intelligent and sophisticated ads. There are a great many cultural differences that explain this (primarily Americans' just-give-me-the-facts mentality). However, I would point to some very nice work from the past few years to prove that it is still being done over here.

Leading the way, Volkswagon (Arnold)

Jeep (Bozell)

Saab (The Martin Agency)

Nissan (hit or miss brilliance from TBWA/Chiat)

Hummer (Pyro)

And the current Mitsubishi campaign is pretty good too (Deutshe)

deke's picture

After a few years at Pyro, Hummer decided to move their account to Modernista! in Boston, the agency co-founded by former VW Creative Director Lance Jensen. I would have to assume that the level of creative will remain very high.

There is a huge amount of clutter in the automotive segment of the industry. A lot of it comes in the form of individual dealer "screamy ads" where price and rebates and silly jingles are the norm. The next level up is regional brand advertising, where you get a little more subtle, but still some hard-hitting ads price and promotion ads. The creme de la creme is in the national brand stuff, where some of America's best and most memorable ads are made. But without a doubt (just like the cars themselves) there are some real clunkers. They're usually overloaded with gratuitous "professional driver on closed track" shots, silly puns, and high-priced, high-energy music tracks. They often focus on lifestyle messages, ie "simplify your life," "get out and enjoy," "for the busy family," "for the outdoorsman," "safety for the family" etc. All good and relevant messages, just not many new executions of them. Just big $$ on production and media.

hayduke's picture

I know that this is nothing new ("shifting of accounts with no consideration for creative work,") however, at this scale it is causing quite a stir. This is the largest automotive account in the world. I am a HUGE fan of European automotive advertising and think that, in many cases, the creative work coming from across the Atlantic is unparalleled. However, I disagree with your statement regarding the creative quality of American automotive advertising. PeterW summed it up well in his post and I too think that the cultural attitudes of each market are the cause of the different approaches to developing these ads. Neither the Europeans nor the Americans are batting 1.000

American auto advertising CAN be creative and I think that Arnold's VW work and CME-Bozell-FCBs (these were all of the same people, by the way, the agency and its personnel have changed names several times) work on Jeep are great examples of that.

Back to the article, though. My reason for posting was to learn the opinions of those outside the Detroit community. Thanks for commenting.

hayduke's picture

My apologies, it was deke who made the statement about creativity on this side of the water.

hayduke's picture

With Chrysler's budget cuts and quibbling about savings on advertising it remains to be seen whether they (BBDO/PentaMark) can afford to bring over the top creative talent. The job market for creatives in Detroit is ripe right now and in this time of uncertainty the other big-dogs in town are working to capture that talent too.

Chrysler now has a watchdog on the board of that agency too. I hope that things work out for those brands, however, I'm skeptical with this strongarm approach the client is taking. If one is making decisions soley on numbers I can't see how they will avoid taking the approach that Dodge brand has and falling into a tired creative formula approach to the advertising.