DETROIT -- General Motors Co.'s Cadillac has cut the list of semi-finalists vying for the brand's national creative account in half.
The agencies moving to the next round are two Publicis Groupe shops in New York -- Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Publicis -- along with Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.
Eliminated are Omnicom Group's DDB of Chicago; Interpublic's Gotham and independent McKinney, of Durham, N.C. Cadillac confirmed that list.
The holidays will be a frenetic time for the finalists to put together their presentations, as the marketer has said it will hear pitches in January. A decision is expected soon afterward.
Cadillac's U.S. sales plunged 39 percent during the first 10 months -- compared with a fall of 34 percent for all of GM and 25 percent for the industry as a whole.
But in October, Cadillac enjoyed a 22 percent gain from October 2008, paced by strong sales of the DTS, the Escalade and the SRX.
The three ad agency finalists have experience dealing with car brands.
Bartle Bogle was a finalist in Audi of America's review in 2006. The agency's London office handles Audi in the U.K., which created a spot for the Q5 early this year. In the Audi of America review, the agency pitched against incumbent McKinney, which had held the account from 1993 to 2006. The account is now with Venables, Bell & Partners.
Publicis had handled one of BMW's four regional dealer ad accounts, but lost it last year after a consolidation pitch won by Grey West of San Francisco. Publicis had also created BMW's first national, certified-used car blitz in newspapers in 1999. (Publicis' Starcom MediaVest Group handles GM's U.S. media planning and buying account for all brands, but the automaker is not reviewing its media business.)
Martin has solid auto experience, having handled GM's Saab account from 1997 to 2001 and before that Mercedes-Benz dealer groups. The shop was a finalist in Subaru of America's pitch five years ago and also held Maserati's account from 1987 to 1989.
The dark horses
Industry experts had ranked Gotham and DDB as the dark horses in Cadillac's review. Gotham, a 160-person agency founded in 1994, has never had a car account. But in January the shop hired Marty Orzio as chief creative officer, from Energy BBDO Chicago, where he held the same post.
Earlier in his career, Orzio was a member of a three-man creative team that developed some of the most awarded car work for Mercedes-Benz, first at Lowe & Partners, New York, and then at the shop known as Merkley Newman Harty, where he followed the account.
DDB's Chicago office has auto-related accounts including Cars.com and State Farm.
The incumbent, independent Modernista, Boston, opted not to defend the business, which it won without a review in 2006.
Ark Advisors of New York is managing the pitch, but did not return calls or e-mails for comment.
Cadillac spent $269 million in U.S. measured media last year, 20 percent more than the prior year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.