McCann Seeks L.A. CD on Buick Business

LOS ANGELES McCann Erickson is planning to move creative oversight on General Motors’ Buick account from its office in Birmingham, Mich., to Los Angeles, according to sources.

The Interpublic Group-owned agency is interviewing a short list of creative directors, with an eye toward selecting one to start on the account in Los Angeles early next year, per sources.

GM could not be immediately reached for comment.

Garry Neel, CEO of McCann Erickson in Birmingham, declined to confirm the plan to meld the two offices, but acknowledged that the agency is “looking at ways to leverage the talents that exist in the West Coast offices and studying some options that would represent a new model in how we bring clients holistic and new media solutions.”

Ian McGregor, evp, gm of McCann Erickson’s L.A. office, declined comment.

The new hire is expected to come from a California shop with extensive automotive experience. Most of the team working on the business, however, is likely to remain in Michigan.

Sources characterized the move as a pro-active effort by McCann to elevate Buick marketing before the automaker looks elsewhere. A source said McCann was conspicuously absent in a presentation last month before GM marketing executives in Detroit, when Deutsch, Campbell-Ewald, Modernista! and Leo Burnett, representing various GM nameplates, all presented ideas for the upcoming year. Another source dismissed that absence as inconsequential and more relating to product cycles. Buick will launch the Enclave crossover SUV next summer.

The move comes on the heels of the venerable brand’s steady slide since 2002, when it was up 6.5 percent to 432,000 units, per Automotive News Data Center. Since then, Buick plummeted 22 percent in 2003 to 337,000 units, slid 8.1 percent to 310,000 units in 2004, and declined again 8.8 percent to 282,000 units in 2005.

This year Buick is likely to suffer another double-digit decline. Through
November 2006, the brand is down 14 percent to 225,000 units, with all models but the Lucerne selling worse than last year, according to Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

GM spent $160 million advertising the Buick in 2005, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The Buick nameplate is now being run by GM North America vp of marketing and advertising Mike Jackson, who was a GM regional manager before he was elevated to the automaker’s turnaround team in February.

Jackson was instrumental in moving some GM corporate business from McCann in Birmingham and some Chevrolet projects from IPG’s Campbell-Ewald to sibling shop Deutsch/L.A. in 2005 and 2006. Jackson explained that move as partially motivated by a continuing GM effort to more effectively compete in California’s car culture and use the marketing strength of its automotive-oriented agencies.