DETROIT – General Motors Co. will start hearing pitches for select Chevrolet advertising assignments, although longtime incumbent agency Campbell-Ewald will remain the volume brand's agency of record, according to two executives familiar with the matter.
It's not clear which advertising agencies will be invited or whether GM will hire a consultant to handle the jump balls.
A spokesman confirmed the review, saying that "as Chevrolet moves to expand its global presence it will reach out to a wider range of advertising agencies for new brand and product campaigns."
He said Campbell-Ewald "will continue as the lead agency in supporting product information, brand catalogs and retail support," and that the shop is welcome to participate in the review, which will also be open to non-roster shops.
A source familiar with GM's decision said the automaker wanted to bring a more competitive element into Chevy's creative work. GM will not be doing this with its other brands, the source said.
Another big agency move
This would be the second big agency move by the automaker in less than a week, and it's a signal of change at the "new" GM, which emerged from 39 days of bankruptcy protection on July 10.
Last Friday, Cadillac called a review for its national and regional dealer creative account and hired Ark Advisors, New York, as the review consultant. Incumbent Modernista, a Boston-based independent, opted not to defend.
Chevrolet's move comes within months of the return of Brent Dewar to head the brand, this time as global brand coordinator and vice president for North America. Dewar last headed Chevrolet in the U.S. as general manager for two years until 2005, and he returned this summer from a one-year tour of duty in Europe for GM.
During Dewar's first reign at Chevrolet, he was tough on the brand's suburban Detroit, agency, said two former managers of the Interpublic Group of Cos. shop. One of his first moves upon his return, one of those managers said, was to pull the plug on a new brand blitz that was ready to go and had already been approved by Mark LaNeve, who until July 10 had been vice president of sales, service and marketing at GM in North America.
Today is the last day at GM for LaNeve, who was moved to vice president of sales, sans marketing, after GM's emergence from bankruptcy court. He will become marketing chief at Allstate Insurance.
Neither he nor Dewar returned e-mails for comment.
GM backed its biggest-selling brand with $797 million in U.S. measured media last year, a 12% increase from 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
Campbell-Ewald's current work for Chevrolet features Howie Long, with whom the automaker has signed a contract. Although auto pundits panned the work as vanilla, internal research shows Long is credible and is helping to move the needle on consideration, one executive said.
Chevrolet's new U.S. vehicle sales are off 32 percent in the first nine months of 2009, to 987,912 units vs. the same period a year earlier. Its best-selling model remains the Silverado full-size pickup.
But the automaker didn't seem to respond to heavy advertising in September from Ford Motor Co., which backed its competing F-Series line with a "Truck Month" sale. Chevy Silverado sales fell 62 percent last month to 19,401 units vs. September 2008, but Ford's F-Series managed a 4 percent jump in sales to 33,877 units in September.
Campbell-Ewald has been Chevrolet's agency of record since 1922, and, like any long marriage, the relationship has seen good times and bad.
Campbell-Ewald has created some of the most effective ads for Chevrolet -- from Dinah Shore singing "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet" in the 1950s and1960s, to Bob Seger belting out "Like a Rock" starting in 1991.
In between, there were memorable slogans, including "Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet" (1975) and "The Heartbeat of America" (1986). "Heartbeat" alone has won more than 400 awards. Dewar oversaw the birth of the agency's "American Revolution" theme for the brand in late 2003, which marked the arrival of a slew of new products.
Jamie LaReau contributed to this report