Lowe & Partners/SMS will be a hard act to follow for whichever ad agency succeeds it on the $100 million-plus Mercedes-Benz account.
Mercedes Benz of North America Inc. surprised dealers at its make meeting at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention when it announced it will drop its highly acclaimed ad agency April 30.
The move was unexpected, since ad agencies usually get fired when sales are bad and when dealers hate the advertising. In this case, Mercedes is enjoying record U.S. sales, and dealers like the 'Falling in Love Again' ads.
'When you're on top, when you see any change you're skeptical,' said Mercedes dealer Chip Ott of R&S Imports in Fort Washington, Pa.
'But we left (the make meeting) feeling pretty comfortable. ... We have a lot of confidence in (President) Mike Jackson. He didn't do this to end up with worse advertising,' Ott said.
Jackson said he liked the advertising, too.
'The actual work that appeared in the marketplace fully satisfied our standards,' Jackson said in an interview after the make meeting. 'But it was difficult getting it to that point, and it was getting increasingly difficult.'
What is probably the agency's best-known Mercedes commercial was a shocker for the usually staid company: Janis Joplin singing, 'Oh, Lord won'tcha buy me a Mercedes-Benz.'
But Jackson cited three reasons for dropping the New York agency:
1. The client/agency relationship was difficult, and it's getting worse.
2. There was serious turmoil at the top of the agency, including the retirement - Jackson called it 'the quote-unquote retirement' - of Marvin Sloves, lead partner on the Mercedes account, effective Jan. 1.
3. The merger that created parent company DaimlerChrysler AG in November also sharpened an existing conflict: Lowe & Partners/SMS is affiliated with Interpublic Group of Cos., which includes ad agencies that represent General Motors brands.