Kurt Ritter, a veteran General Motors truck marketer and a main figure behind Chevy Truck's "Like A Rock" campaign, jumped ship last week to join Saatchi & Saatchi in Los Angeles as head of the agency's Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. account.
Ritter, 53, had been appointed marketing chief for the Buick and Pontiac-GMC divisions in February, a new post aimed at streamlining marketing for the two divisions. A GM source says Ritter was disappointed at being moved to the post.
Before the Buick-Pontiac-GMC move, Ritter was marketing general manager for Chevrolet, a division that he had worked for since 1971.
On Friday, May 2, GM named Roger Adams to succeed Ritter. Adams, 47, was Buick's marketing general manager from 1999 until February, when he was named general manager of GM Customer Network, which is the automaker's customer relationship marketing group. Jack Bowen replaces Adams. Bowen was general director of GM's credit card operations.
Ritter takes the place of former Toyota account head Scott Gilbert, who was promoted to managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi in New York in January.
Although he was not made available for comment, Ritter said in a release: "When I learned about the role, I knew it was for me. It plays to all my strengths."
Toyota was consulted on the hiring by Saatchi but did not have final say, says Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis. But it was clear that Ritter's experience in truck marketing loomed large with his new client.
The Toyota brand includes three SUVs, two sport wagons, the compact Tacoma pickup and full-sized Tundra pickup. But Toyota plans a major push in the light-truck segment. It will open a 150,000-unit Tundra plant in San Antonio in 2006 and is expanding its Indiana truck plant.
In an interview last year, then-Toyota Division marketing chief Steve Sturm said the automaker needs to become a significant player in the biggest pickup segment.
"If you want to get into the core of the market, you must get into the work segment," he said. "We'll expand the model lineup to address the market."
Saatchi made two other tactical appointments to support the Toyota account.
Richard Anderman was named managing director and COO of the Toyota account, while Mark Turner was named planning director.
Anderman, 52, had been senior account director at Merkley Newman Harty & Partners in New York. He had been part of the Lexus Division launch team and more recently had been part of the Mercedes-Benz brand campaign.
Turner, 40, had been Strategic Planning Director at Young & Rubicam's Irvine, Calif., office, overseeing planning for the Premier Automotive Group. He also had been involved with Sony Corp. of America and Mattel Inc.