Ailing Saab to review U.S. ads, agency
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DETROIT -- Saab will conduct an ad agency review this spring as its U.S. sales continue to deteriorate following its separation from former parent General Motors.
The action follows the resignation last Friday of Mike Colleran, Saab Cars North America's COO.
Former Volkswagen executive Matthias Seidl was named interim COO.
Saab has struggled since it was purchased by Spyker Cars NV from General Motors Co. in February 2010. Early last year the company predicted it would sell 10,000 vehicles in the United States. But U.S. sales were just 5,445. Under GM, Saab sold 8,680 vehicles in the United States in 2009.
“The U.S. is the most important market for us, and we are now overseeing our agencies,” said Knut Simonsson, executive director of global marketing for Saab Automobile. “You will see an agency review taking place this spring,” he said this week during an interview at the Detroit auto show.
McCann Erickson has had the account since 2007. Saab Automobile replaced its European ad agency last year.
Simonsson would not disclose the U.S. advertising budget. Saab's spending in 2010 has not been announced. He said the tag line, “Born from Jets,” will not be revived. “That is over,” he said.
No agencies have been approached and McCann will be part of the review process, he said.
McCann's suburban Detroit office has had the Saab account since 2007, when GM moved the account, then worth $55 million, from the agency's sibling, Lowe New York. But spending on Saab shrunk to virtually nil after GM said it was putting the brand on the block.
McCann once had a much bigger chunk of GM's ad accounts in the United States.
But the agency lost the GMC account in 1997, soon after GM combined it with Pontiac. The winner was Pontiac's agency, Leo Burnett, which a decade later acquired the Buick account from McCann when GM consolidated Buick with Pontiac and GMC.
McCann also handles GM's corporate account, which earlier this decade escalated into the hundreds of millions of dollars in media spending annually as GM did umbrella retail sales events for most of its brands.
The Detroit-area office of the agency also created last year's national TV commercials for GM with Chairman-CEO Ed Whitacre touting the payback of U.S. government loans.
Seidl will take on temporary responsibility for Saab Cars North America in addition to his position as executive director of global sales for Saab Automobile. Saab Automobile expects to announce a new COO for Saab Cars North America soon, the company said.
Seidl has experience in the United States, having spent several years as COO for Volkswagen of America in 2006 and 2007. Prior to that, Seidl had sales jobs with Volkswagen and Audi.
Saab has been struggling globally and last year trimmed production plans several times. Last spring it announced plans to produce 50,000 vehicles. That number was reduced to 45,000 in August, then to 35,000 a short time later. It reduced its global production target to 30,000 units in October.
Jean Halliday contributed to this report.