Saab Search for Global Creative Agency on Hold?

Company has run out of cash for wages

While Saab has sent out RFIs in a review of its global creative business handled by Lowe Brindfors, Stockholm, the status of that search is uncertain amid a new financial crisis at the carmaker.

The Swedish automaker admitted on Thursday that it has run out of cash and doesn’t have the money to make current payments to its 3,700 employees

Global spending could not be determined, but Saab spent just $13.9 million in measured media in the U.S. last year, per Nielsen. (That amount does not include online spending.) As recently as 2007, Saab spent $26.4 million in the U.S. McCann Worldgroup handles North American advertising, which is not currently part of the review, sources said. Lowe Brindfors continues to work with Saab, and Worldgroup is among the agencies invited to pitch, sources said.

A Worldgroup representative declined to comment, referring inquiries to Saab, as did a spokesperson at its Interpublic sibling Lowe. The auto company, and its new parent Swedish Automobile, previously known as Spyker Cars, did not respond to queries.

The company has been saddled with production stoppages—manufacturing is down until at least July 4—and difficulties paying suppliers. Saab’s new Dutch owner, which bought the ailing brand from General Motors last year, has been reaching out to investors for its financial survival.

While it has lined up investors like Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. and Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. to distribute Saab cars in China, the country’s authorities have yet to approve those deals.

Saab has struggled as a niche brand in an automotive world dominated by larger players. Global sales are below 50,000 cars per year. By some estimates, Saab sold about 120,000 cars annually at its peak in the late 1980s, early '90s.

The Swedish brand’s last big global initiative, launched a year ago with the tag "Anything but ordinary," was from Lowe Brindfors in support of Saab’s 9-5 model.

More recently, in an effort from McCann Worldgroup, the carmaker launched a Facebook promotion in March where consumers could write and star in their own Saab banner ads designed to resemble the brand’s U.S. ad campaign “The Story of Saab.”