NEW YORK -- Chrysler has hired Publicis Groupe's Fallon to handle creative work for Chrysler brand, handled for years by Omnicom Group's BBDO.
The news came via a letter from the CEO of the automaker's Chrysler brand division, Olivier Francois, responding to a story posted on AdAge.com about the brand using a spot created by an Italian agency.
Francois stated Fallon is currently working on new commercials for the carmaker that are set to begin airing this year.
The assignment is a huge coup for Fallon, Minneapolis, which has been hungry for a car account since the high-profile departure of its BMW account in 2005. That marked the end of a decade-long relationship that featured the popular BMW Films branded-entertainment effort.
Chrysler has made several changes to its agency roster in the past few months. It has heard pitches from a range of U.S. agencies, and has awarded Richards Group, Dallas, duties for the Ram truck brand and gave GlobalHue, Southfield, Mich., Jeep work.
A decision on a media-agency review is also expected imminently, and it remains to be seen whether Omnicom Group can hang onto the account. PHD currently serves as the media agency of record of all three of Chrysler's major brands, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.
The big loser amidst all the agency changes has been BBDO, whose contract with Chrysler ends next month. BBDO at the end of January will shutter the Detroit office that has long churned out ads for the carmaker -- putting hundreds of staffers out of work.
Defending new ads
Francois, in his letter to Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News, took pains to defend the spot that began airing Thursday from Armando Testa, the ad agency for Fiat's Lancia brand.
The commercial, which Francois referred to as an "act of social responsibility" is similar to a Lancia commercial from a year ago calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's pro-democracy leader and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who has been in and out of house arrest since 1989.
Francois said it was "one-time execution," that did not represent "Chrysler 'hiring' the agency" and said it was wrong to portray using the ad as an affront to U.S. taxpayers.
"In fact neither the agency nor the leadership of Nobel, nor the other Nobel Prize winners in the film, charged us even a penny for it," Francois said. "The only costs were actually spent here in the U.S., to two companies to coordinate and manage the trafficking of this film."
"Hopefully we can enjoy the freedom of having your readers in a democratic society decide for themselves if they should be upset, or whether we instead exercised fiscal responsibility in producing this important film," he added.