DETROIT -- General Motors Co. says it is looking for a new creative advertising agency for its Cadillac brand, which has been posting U.S. sales declines worse than most other luxury brands this year.
“As we continue the renaissance of the Cadillac brand, we are looking for the best agency partner to deliver outstanding advertising that attracts the luxury-vehicle buyer,” Bryan Nesbitt, general manager of Cadillac, said today in a statement. “Modernista, our current agency partner, has elected not to participate.”
GM hired Boston-based Modernista as Cadillac's advertising agency in the summer of 2006.
Cadillac is using Ark Advisors to help find a new agency.
A source familiar with GM's advertising said today that Modernista was short of new ideas for the brand to convey more of a product message. The agency lacked a vision for Cadillac beyond exciting visuals and a tone that would make the consumer want to consider Cadillac over another luxury brand, the source said.
"We think we can do better," GM CEO Fritz Henderson said during a Web chat today. "We have done some good marketing and advertising in the past, but we do think we can take it up another level."
Sales declines worse than most
Cadillac's sales through September plunged 44 percent from 2008 levels, compared with the 36 percent decline for all of GM's brands. Among luxury brands, only Bentley and Maserati have sustained worse declines.
Lexus plunged 27 percent through September, Mercedes-Benz 24 percent, Lincoln 28 percent, Audi 10 percent, Infiniti 33 percent, and Acura 34 percent.
Total U.S. light-vehicle sales slid 27 percent through last month.
Since GM's exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy this summer, the Detroit grapevine has swirled that Modernista was the odd agency out because it was independent, and that it would be replaced with a shop from one of GM's two main agency-holding conglomerates: Publicis Groupe or Interpublic Group of Cos.
Pundits figured the leaner GM could no longer afford the luxury of a smaller, independent shop.
The move is financially related -- GM wants to cut fees, said a former GM exec, as Modernista had higher fees than other, longer-term agencies to the marketer. Other pundits said GM needed to move at least one of its remaining four core vehicle-brand accounts to show that it was indeed a "new" GM.
Modernista also handled GM's Hummer account. But Modernista's fate on that account is hazy as GM CEO Fritz Henderson said earlier this week he expected a sale of that brand to close by year's end.
And Modernista is losing one of its biggest fans inside GM: Mark LaNeve.
LaNeve, GM's top U..S. sales executive, until mid-summer had also overseen all advertising and is leaving the automaker next week.
"We are extremely proud of the work we created for both Hummer and Cadillac," Modernista said in a statement. "We feel it ranks among the best, if not the best work in the automotive category."
Chrissie Thompson contributed to this report
Jean Halliday is a reporter for Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News