Chrysler’s Schroer Looks Ahead

James Schroer, the former Ford executive who took over as Chrysler’s marketing chief in February, believes advertising is overrated.

“There’s a lot more to running a vehicle launch or a marketing campaign than the advertising,” he said in an interview last week. “It used to be the end all and be all of a marketing campaign. Now it is being relegated to its rightful position [as] one important element of a great overall marketing campaign.”

Schroer, executive vice president of global sales and marketing for DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group, has just one shop to work with thanks to last fall’s consolidation of the $2 billion DaimlerChrysler business at PentaMark, a BBDO unit specifically designed for the account. But Schroer said he wouldn’t rule out looking beyond PentaMark or even the Omnicom network for assistance with projects.

“We’ll go wherever we need to in order to have the most innovative and creative marketing,” he said. “We’re better off having those skills inside our marketing partner. But if we have to use a straw to stir the drink once in a while, we’ll do that.”

Upcoming campaigns from PentaMark, including the launch of the Jeep Liberty and a redesigned Dodge Ram, will focus on product attributes more than brand image, Schroer said. He downplayed the importance of taglines for Chrysler’s brands, and intimated that one, “Dodge. Different,” could soon be scrapped.

Schroer said it is his responsibly to lead PentaMark in the right direction and take credit or blame for the results. Clients who blame their ad agency for bad sales and then fire them are “idiots,” he said.

“About the time you change ad agencies,” he said, “the same creative people show up, because the new agency wanted to hire somebody who knew your business.

“The real genius in managing an ad agency is not to sit there and treat them like a supplier,” Schroer said. “It’s to treat them like a true partner, like they are an extension of your own staff.”