NEW YORK -- Chrysler is prepping the launch of a corporate branding TV campaign it hopes will help repair its image in the minds of consumers -- and it's hired a new agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham, for the project.
Chrysler and Gotham executives didn't respond to requests for comment by press time, but according to one person with knowledge of the work, the ads, which are expected to break in the next few weeks, feature real company employees. The move comes as carmakers are looking to emerge from the car industry's troubles and lure back buyers.
Chrysler has made a host of changes to its marketing relationships in recent times. Its entire ad account was handled by Omnicom Group agencies a year ago, but since Italy's Fiat S.p.A. took control of the company last summer, the work has been spread around and is now handled by ad agencies all over the industry:
Independents Wieden & Kennedy and Richards Group handle creative for Dodge cars and Ram trucks, respectively;
Southfield, Mich.-based GlobalHue does work for Jeep;
Publicis Groupe's Fallon was tapped for work for brand Chrysler;
Sapient Nitro handles digital duties across the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler bands and Chrysler Group; Meredith Corp.'s New Media Strategies agency does social-media marketing; and
Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann is the media agency across Chrysler's brands.
Detroit has seen a mass exodus of ad business as accounts have been moved out of the Motor City over the last year, but Chrysler has had the most wanderlust, handing work to shops elsewhere in the country.
The hire of Gotham for a new TV campaign is a sign that Chrysler isn't married to its current agency roster and is open to keep shops on their toes with "jump ball" assignments, handing work to whichever agencies it sees fit.
For Gotham's part, the agency seems to be looking for accounts in the car category. It was a finalist in the hotly contested pitch for Cadillac, which ultimately went to Publicis-backed BBH. Gotham previously handled ad work for Mercedes dealer groups.
Chrysler's marketing budget has shrunk dramatically in recent times, but it's still over half a billion dollars in domestic measured media. For all of 2009, it spent $577 million, according to Kantar Media.
Between January and February of this year, it spent nearly $120 million on U.S. measured media, and some of that could be related to its Super Bowl buy. Chrysler was also the only American automaker to run a spot in the big game this year.