Accounts in Review: Porsche

Budget: $15 million
Decision date: February
Incumbent: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Market situation
Porsche wants to extend its sexy nameplate into a new-and some would say unlikely-sector with the launch of a sport utility vehicle in 2002. The motivation is natural: SUVs represent the industry’s most lucrative sector, with profit margins of up to $15,000 per vehicle. But will Porsche’s entry come too late? Category growth slowed last year to 14 percent from 21 percent in 1996. J.D. Power & Associates is cautioning that negative growth is also possible in the next five years. Regardless, Porsche must compete with other high-end car makers’ entries, such as Lincoln’s Navigator, Mercedes’ M-Class and Infiniti’s QX4. BMW is also planning a boxy vehicle of its own. Porsche’s existing sales remain strong, with waiting lists for its 911 and Boxster indicating that the sports cars literally sell themselves.
Inside Scoop
Porsche general manager of marketing Joel Ewanick left in December, after five contenders were identified. Replacing him is chief operating officer Richard Ford, who led marketing when the account was at Goodby. Shops will make pitches to officials from Atlanta and Germany, as well as dealer representatives-about 10 people in all. Ewanick’s to-be-named replacement will inherit the new shop. The winner will handle creative, and coexist with a trio of agencies already working on a project basis: Kowloon, Ground Zero in Santa Monica, Calif., and Austin Kelley Advertising in Atlanta. (Media is handled by Creative Media in New York.) Contenders with Goodby links could have an advantage, as that shop was beloved by the client. But agencies might remember that Goodby walked away a year ago because the account was taking up too much time for the money. A decision is expected by Feb. 10.
Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis
Though it has no previous connection to the client, the shop was invited to compete based on its work for Harley-Davidson and other “enthusiast” brands. Agency president and chief creative officer Jack Supple and director of account services John Colasanti believe the Porsche nameplate is not in a position to credibly support an SUV, so the main thrust of its strategic pitch will be to “widen the franchise.”
Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co., Santa Monica, Calif.
The smallest in the pack, Kowloon is the only U.S. shop currently working with Porsche. Dick Sittig and Patrick Adams picked up strategic and creative duties on the 2000 launch of the Turbo 911 and are looking to parlay those ties into a broader assignment. They have presented a strategic platform to support the entire brand. The shop’s only other client is Jack-in-the-Box Restaurants, an account that left TBWA/Chiat/Day along with creative director Sittig when that shop won Taco Bell two years ago.
Leagas Delaney, San Francisco
Leagas has won creative nods on the fast-growing Adidas America account, its biggest client. Now it wants a second major brand. Leagas can flaunt its former Goodby staffers, who are leading the shop’s pitch: Leagas media director Rob Kabus oversaw media planning for Porsche at Goodby; Leagas partners and creative directors Harry Cocciolo and Sean Ehringer also worked there until March 1997, and will use knowledge gleaned from working on the shop’s Isuzu account to run the business in the event of a victory. The agency’s London parent is Porsche’s lead agency in Britain.
The Richards Group, Dallas
A finalist in Porsche’s 1993 review, agency officials feel that experience helped the shop get another invite. Stan Richards’ longstanding desire for an upscale car account was manifest in this pitch when he deployed 15 new and classic Porsches along the agency’s driveway as a welcome mat to visiting client officials. Upon their exit, the cars were replaced with various SUVs, each bearing a “For Sale” placard as a sign of things to come. Richards can tout its international alliances with the overseas networks of DDB Needham, Young & Rubicam and Leo Burnett as well as six creative boutiques in Europe and Asia. Agency principal Scott Crockett is leading the pitch team.
WestWayne, Atlanta
WestWayne executives acknowledge the shop is a dark horse, with its local client base and no prior car experience. But they’re also neighbors with Porsche’s U.S. operations in Atlanta. The shop’s profile has grown since it hired creative guru Luke Sullivan from Fallon McElligott last year. The shop’s position is: Sullivan’s thrill for branding married with shop chief Ben West’s love for the brand (he owns a 911) compares favorably with Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein in an “opposites attract business” way. The pitch will be Sullivan’s first big test, but the shop has already scored a victory: Porsche is the biggest review it’s gotten into in years.