DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- BBDO, which managed to survive a turnover of owners and CEOs at Chrysler this decade, will part with its longtime automotive client when its contract expires at the end of January, according to an executive close to the matter.
A spokesman for BBDO denied that, saying the Omnicom Group agency has been negotiating with Chrysler on a new contract since the automaker exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in June. On the table, he said, is cutting back the broad scope of services BBDO provides, including dealer training, call centers, point-of-sale materials and database management.
Chrysler did not return calls or e-mails by deadline; the automaker earlier said it is in a quiet period until Nov. 4, when it will roll out its new five-year business plan.
Meeting with Sergio
But Chrysler, which is now 20 percent owned by Fiat, has a new top marketing executive, Olivier Francois, named last week to succeed Michael Accavitti, who himself had held the post for only four months.
According to a second executive, Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne participated in a meeting about 10 days ago that included Andrew Robertson, CEO of BBDO Worldwide, and Joe Garcia, president of BBDO Detroit in suburban Detroit. The substance of the conversation was unclear.
BBDO stuck with the automaker through its government-prepared bankruptcy reorganization this summer, only to be told that the automaker would be reviewing all its fourth-quarter work. Subsequently, Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, has been tapped for one assignment and independent Richards Group, Dallas, was given charge of the Dodge Ram truck brand.
Chrysler's longtime diversity agency, GlobalHue, Southfield, Mich., was given the general assignment for the Jeep work. Hal Riney did not return calls.
BBDO did create a new regional TV spot for the Chrysler 300 sedan and a new commercial for Chrysler's Town & Country minivan that may break soon. But the marketer may be merely fulfilling a contractual guaranty for specific levels of income to the ad agency.
Only 1 percent of the business
Though a parting with Chrysler would be a psychological sting for BBDO, which has held the account since 1944, from a financial point of view, it would not be a stunning blow. As of March, the automaker accounted for less than 1 percent of revenue of parent Omnicom. Moreover, the holding company has a number of other auto accounts within its fold, including Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.
In the meantime, Chrysler's spending has plunged; U.S. measured media spending fell 35 percent to $1.1 billion last year vs. 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Chrysler's ownership changes, along with management shifts and industry woes, have taken their toll on the morale at BBDO's suburban Detroit office. Earlier this decade, it employed 1,200 people but currently has just 450 staffers after several rounds of cuts in recent years.