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It Was Only A Matter of Time. Now BBDO is on Firing Line for Chrysler's Problems.

Posted by: David Kiley on December 12, 2006


Automotive News reports that Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda said late last week that he is unhappy with some of the advertising created by the automaker’s ad agency, BBDO Detroit.

LaSorda reportedly told Detroit dealers with whom he was meeting that some BBDO-produced ads do not convey brand and product messages effectively. He singled out a TV commercial that depicts a stalled car getting a jump from a Dodge Nitro. The stalled car then blows sky-high and doesn’t land for a long time. Hmmmmm. Ha. ha.

Many dealers have complained that the commercial doesn’t tell consumers anything about the Nitro.

AN quoted Chrysler chief communications exec Jason Vines relating that CEO Lasorda told BBDO executives:”I want you guys to put your nose to the grindstone” to convey Chrysler group messages to consumers.

Vines said the Chrysler group does not plan to put its account up for review, which would allow other ad agencies to compete for the business.

BBDO, owned by mega agency group Omnicom, doesn’t necessarily have a lock on Chrysler’s business for ever, though it might be tough to dislodge Omnicom. One former Chrysler executive said that the working relationship between departing sales and marketing executive Joe Eberhardt and the agency has been “very difficult.”

The question is why is Lasorda calling out BBDO in public. In the void of all the departed marketing executives this year—-Julie Roehm, Jeff Bell and Bonita Stewart—-is sr. vp of global marketing George Murphy. Is he not exerting some influence over what the agency is producing? I suppose it doesn’t make sense to call out Eberhardt, since he has already been demoted to Mercedes dealer. But how about laying some wood to Murphy?

Chrysler is in a world of hurt right now with new models arriving as it is loaded to the gills with unsold inventory. It has lost all momentum on the sale side, and it hasn’t shown any real advertising mojo in many months.

In all of this, it was amazing to me that the powers that be allowed BBDO to chase and ultimately win the Mitsubishi ad business a year ago. If I was Chrysler, now or then, I would have insisted that BBDO simply worry about applying all the best talent it has—NY office, LA Office, Detroit or London…whatever—against MY BUSINESS.

Lasorda seems a bit out of bounds going after the agency here. He has had a revolving door of adv/mkting execs this year under Eberhardt and Murphy. And the last big bad effort—-the Dr. Z campaign, which met with more derision in the marketplace than praise—was hatched by Eberhardt, Lasorda and Vines, and more or less handed to BBDO as a strategy for them to execute against. Oy.

If I was Lasorda, I’d be barking at Murphy, the only guy in the marketing ranks with experience and continuity with the problems over time…and I’d be out talking to head hunters about a really good mid-level marketing chief who knows the difference between good stuff and bad.

By the way…the dealers gripes are not irrelevant. New product with new model names need to be properly introduced. The problem here is that dealers always seem to just want to show the product, show the product, show the product. And their taste in advertising is usually about as good as an e-coli laced Taco Bell Nachos Bell Grande.

There is a way to talk about a new product and even show it, and tell an engaging story at the same time. It’s a pity that so few ad people in Detroit seem to know how to skin that cat. But Lasorda better reach out and find some who do.

Reader Comments


December 24, 2006 10:30 AM

Bonita "I'm thinking in my mind" Stewart has left the building? There may be hope in Auburn Hills yet.

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