General Motors is angry with Publicis Groupe for hiring away marketing exec Kurt Ritter to work on Toyota's business - and could punish the holding company as a result.
"We've voiced our extreme displeasure to Publicis," CJ Fraleigh, executive director of corporate advertising for GM, told Advertising Age, a sister publication to Automotive News. Fraleigh called Ritter's hiring unacceptable and inappropriate.
This month, Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the ad agencies owned by Publicis Groupe, hired Ritter as CEO of the agency's Torrance, Calif., office, which services the account of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Publicis Groupe also owns agencies that do about $350 million in business with GM. Publicis' Chemistri unit, formerly D'Arcy, handles Cadillac and Pontiac. And the holding company's GM Planworks office in Detroit has the automaker's consolidated media planning and research account.
Asked whether GM might punish the holding company by taking away business, Fraleigh said only, "Publicis and their employees have to do what's best for them, and we have to do what's best for us."
Neither Publicis nor Saatchi gave GM a heads-up on the plan to hire Ritter, according to two executives close to GM. That task would likely have fallen to Roger Haupt, COO at Publicis. Haupt did not return calls and e-mails for comment before 5 p.m. Friday, May 16.
Ritter was named general manager of both Buick and Pontiac-GMC on March 1. He had spent nearly 32 years at GM, nearly all with Chevrolet. Ritter could not be reached for comment.