Joe Eberhardt, the Chrysler group's top marketing executive, is a key player in his company's comeback.
The Chrysler 300 is hot. The Hemi engine is widely recognized. Buyer consideration for all group brands is up.
Eberhardt's success was recognized in a special report on "Power Players" by Advertising Age, a sister publication to Automotive News. He ranks as the third-most influential person in U.S. marketing and No. 1 in the auto industry.
The report ranked 30 executives primarily on the ad spending at their disposal, their marketing successes and their leadership.
Here are summaries of the auto industry's Power Players in the Advertising Age report.
Title: Chrysler group executive vice president of global sales and marketing
Power Player rank: 3 of 30
Agency roster includes: Omnicom's BBDO Detroit and PHD Detroit, both of Troy, Mich. Interpublic-backed GlobalHue, Southfield, Mich. Omnicom-backed Organic, Detroit.
Power play: Eberhardt, 40, is administering much-improved ad executions across all brands, beefing up his 2004 ad budget by $250 million for model launches. The Chrysler Pacifica is on track after a fumbled 2003 launch. The hot new Chrysler 300 sedan has boosted the brand's sales and helped increase buyer consideration across the Chrysler lineup by about 25 percent from a year ago; awareness is up 50 percent. Jeep sales are up without much new product. A new Chrysler brand campaign is themed "Inspiration comes standard," replacing "Drive+Love." The automaker shows a willingness to keep trying nontraditional ways to reach prospects, including events, video games and online promotions.
Downside: Chrysler faces the challenge of a Dodge Dakota pickup launch this fall in a sluggish segment. Resale values of its products are not as high as those of top Japanese models.
Lyons: Ad spending grows
Agency roster includes: WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson USA and Ford Motor Media, both of Detroit; UniWorld Group, New York; Zubi Advertising Services, Coral Gables, Fla.
Power play: The successful $100 million-plus debut of the redesigned 2004 F-150 full-sized pickup was called "the most important launch in the history of Ford" by Ford CEO Bill Ford. Results include impressive jumps in both sales and buyer consideration. Ford Division under Lyons will follow the F-150 formula for all key model launches with more integrated ad blitzes, events and online activities. The automaker increased fourth-quarter ad spending by 50 percent for its new-model debuts, including the redesigned Mustang and the new Freestyle sport wagon. The new low-volume GT sports car drove into the Super Bowl ad arena. The Focus was a sponsor of the TV show "American Idol."
Downside: The division needs new models to increase volume. Its light-vehicle sales through September slipped by 4.4 percent to 2.1 million compared with a year ago; bright spots were the F-series truck and Escape SUV. But the press has panned the styling of the Five Hundred, and that doesn't bode well for the new sedan.
Connelly: Light trucks need help
Agency roster includes: Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif.; OMD Worldwide, Los Angeles; Ornelas & Associates, Dallas; True Agency, New York.
Power play: A stream of stylish new and redone models coupled with smart advertising from TBWA/Chiat/Day have spurred increased sales for both Nissan and Infiniti through September. More buyers are putting the brands on their shopping lists. The automaker is contributing its fair share to soaring corporate profits of its Japanese parent. Nissan hired its first media auditor this year to increase targeting efficiencies, and there already have been improvements because of altered media buys that include more online ads and a shifting of dollars from network TV to cable. Connelly is using new marketing techniques through Nissan's first urban shop, True Agency of New York.
Downside: Nissan still needs to boost credibility for its first full-sized pickup, the Titan, and its first full-sized SUV, the Armada, in these Detroit-dominated segments. The redesigned Quest minivan isn't meeting sales projections in a tough segment.
Lentz: More emotion wanted
Agency roster includes: Publicis' Burrell Communications Group, Chicago; Conill and Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif.; Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif.
Power play: Lentz, 48, is trying to change the character of the conservative brand with the new and more emotional "Moving forward" ad theme. The automaker is sustaining its sales momentum. It has surpassed Dodge as the third best-selling brand. Ground Zero has been hired as a youth-oriented agency for several models, and Toyota is kicking off a drive tour with online elements for several models. Other developments: Scion is being sold nationally; an exclusive auto partnership has been forged with eBay; and more shipments are scheduled from Japan of the hot-selling second-generation Prius hybrid.
Downside: Toyota had two major recalls this year. It recalled 128,000 Camrys because of a potential side airbag problem and called back 367,000 Highlander SUVs to inspect rear door locks. Toyota changed rules for dealer awards in its latest attempt to improve customer satisfaction ratings. The automaker continues to lag in customer satisfaction at dealerships; J.D. Power and Associates ranked it No. 28, below the industry average, in this year's annual survey of buyers.
Conn: Online activity rises
Agency roster includes: Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif.; La Agencia de Orci & Asociados and Muse Cordero Chen & Partners, both Los Angeles.
Power play: The fourth quarter will be the most active for American Honda. The automaker has increased online ad activity. An online contest compared entrants' looks with various Honda vehicles, tying in with a TV spot. It also will use more broadcast network TV for the 2005 Odyssey minivan launch, because of a shift from heavier spot TV buys. The Odyssey gets more online ads and a buzz marketing event in Times Square. Acura is making impressive gains in sales, in part because of new models. The Honda Civic was the sponsor of a summer concert tour.
Downside: Honda Division had a tough 2004, just two years after its ambitious new-product blitz. Sales of the Honda brand slipped 2.2 percent to 904,491 units through September. Is this the year Honda Division breaks its 10-year run of annual record sales?
Kosak: Sales leads increase
Agency roster includes: Interpublic's Campbell-Ewald and General Motors Mediaworks, both of Warren, Mich.; Publicis' General Motors Planworks, Detroit; Interpublic-backed Accentmarketing, Coral Gables, Fla.
Power play: After returning to Chevrolet in June 2003 to oversee advertising, Kosak led the Chevy's "American Revolution" campaign. The bold effort is signaling the brand's heritage and onslaught of new models. It's getting plenty of media backing, including a major presence during Olympic broadcasts. Chevrolet says that traffic to
chevrolet.com has jumped 50 percent since the campaign broke and that leads to dealerships from the site are up 170 percent. The new Colorado mid-sized pickup got good launch exposure as part of an in-program giveaway to a finalist on CBS' "Survivor: All-Stars" TV show last spring.
Downside: Chevrolet's crucial truck sales through September increased by 17,246 units compared with a year ago despite a slowdown last month. Still, the launch of the Colorado was sluggish. With several key new models out, it's too soon to tell whether Chevrolet's "Revolution" is a coup.