After a seven-month courtship of handling the business on a project basis, Eisner & Associates in Baltimore last week was named agency of record for the Atlantic Automotive Group.
Annual billings for the account are estimated well in excess of $5 million, according to an industry observer. The agency's first major campaign is expected to break later this year.
The client was established by a number of automotive organizations (30 dealerships, regional Saturn locations, service centers, plus car leasing and rental sites) casting their lots together along the busy I-95 corridor that runs between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
"They're experimenting with a concept of a different kind of [car] buying experience," said Eisner strategic planner David Blum. "Let's say you're torn between two models. If you go to one dealer, he's going to trash the other car and reinforce all the negatives of the car buying experience. Atlantic offers almost all of the popular models, so the salesman could refer you to another dealer in the network."
Atlantic Automotive Group officials want to be able to move the concept into other markets beginning next year.
Client chief executive officer Steve Fader said his company's goal is to "transform the face of the industry so our consumers look forward to the car buying experience, rather than dreading the experience of buying, servicing, renting or leasing a car."
To date, the agency has been doing primarily collateral work and strategic planning, according to Blum.
"We went through a period of 'let's both work together as the concept is evolving and when it's time we'll select an agency,' " Blum told Adweek.
Blum said he was not told if other agencies were formally interviewed for the account. He referred those questions to client official Gerry Blair, who could not be reached at press time.