Executive vice president, director of client services Philippe Defechereaux, whom SMS recruited from a worldwide marketing post at Volkswagen AG last year, "is pursuing an opportunity outside the agency," said SMS managing director Scott Messinger. Sources said William Vieser has emerged as a top contender to succeed him. Vieser had been deputy chairman, director of client services at McCaffrey and McCall, Mercedes' former shop.
The SMS/The Martin Agency also lost Bill Westbrook from The Martin Agency, a key member of the account team, to Fallon McElligott last week (see related story, page 3).
SMS' handling of the Mercedes account has been under critical scrutiny since it broke its first flight of national ads last fall with the tagline, "Sacrifice Nothing." The images in the ads ranged from a mother having flashbacks to a childhood accident, a father giving her newly married daughter a new Mercedes at a lavish wedding, and a middle-aged man recalling his first childhood experience seeing a Mercedes at an auto show. The intent was to position Mercedes cars as the safest on the market and as the brand that consumers dream of owning. But the results have met with decidedly mixed reviews in the industry, from dealers, and even among Mercedes staffers. The tagline was dropped last March.
Though a few carless agencies have viewed Mercedes as a vulnerable account at SMS, at least two executives at separate, prominent agencies who inquired after the business said they had been met with no interest by the client.
"Reports of our trouble with Mercedes were very premature," said Messinger. "Yes, we have lost a few significant people from the account, but there are key people remaining, and this account--judging from the inquiries we've received--will attract the best and most talented people in the advertising business."
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)