DaimlerChrysler has forced California's Jeep dealers to break off a 14-year relationship with a Beverly Hills media-buying company, RNF Media Inc.
FCB Media, the Troy, Mich., media buyer that already bought TV time for Chrysler and Plymouth in California, was given responsibility for Jeep as well on Jan. 1. FCB also handles media buying for Chrysler, Plymouth and Jeep dealers in every other state.
Some California Jeep dealers say the switch will mean fewer commercials and less effective advertising.
'It's definitely a power play by the manufacturer. We should be bidding multiple (media buyers) and getting an outside consultant to measure it,' said Jeep dealer Jamie Kopf, owner of Boardwalk Auto Center in Redwood City, Calif.
The decision to change media-buying agencies was prompted by a philosophical difference between the two ad-buying firms, said DaimlerChrysler spokesman Rick Deneau. RNF had a shotgun approach, buying TV commercials across a broad range of relatively inexpensive time slots, he said. FCB uses a more focused approach, concentrating its ad buys on more expensive prime-time slots. FCB's method helps generate a consistent image for the brands, Deneau said.
Kopf said RNF's method reached all of the target audience and was cheaper than FCB's approach.
A report prepared by San Francisco's Hawk Media Inc. for the Jeep dealers looked at spending on commercials in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the first quarter of 1999. It concluded RNF was more effective in reaching Jeep's target audience.
Hawk's conclusion was based on so-called ratings points for commercials. It found that RNF paid $606 per point in Los Angeles, while FCB paid $1,026 per point. Each point represents 1 percent of Jeep's target audience reached one time.
The differences between the two companies run deeper than buying habits, said John Irish, owner of John Irish Auto Plaza (Jeep-Chrysler) in San Rafael, Calif.
RNF bought media for Jeep before the former Chrysler Corp. bought American Motors. After that merger, RNF stayed on with California's Jeep dealers.
Irish credited RNF's success to Brian Fernee, president of RNF Media. Fernee worked with the people at the TV stations for years and had negotiated great prices for Jeep's local advertising, Irish said. FCB, with its national focus, will be too impersonal in the market.
California is different from other markets and should be treated so, said RNF's Fernee, adding: 'There are far more imports here than anywhere else, and you can't just use a Detroit cookie cutter plan.'