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Saturn Seeks Ideas

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Among the agencies believed to have met with Saturn executives regarding the Ion launch are Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston, Berlin Cam eron & Partners in New York and Leo Burnett in Chicago, sources said last week.

Relations between Saturn's longtime shop, Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, and the General Motors unit have been strained recently, and the review could encompass the entire account, sources said. Riney seems to have "lost interest and lost its grip on the account," said one executive.

It's also possible the review is no more than a result of the troubled economy, said an executive at a fellow GM agency. Saturn began having conversations with outside shops several months ago, sources said.

Saturn, based in Troy, Mich., is asking agencies, including Publicis & Hal Riney, to present ideas for the fall 2002 launch of Ion, said Saturn representative Mike Gardner.

Berlin Cam eron handled a launch assignment for GM's Cadillac Esca lade, and Burnett works on Olds mobile.

Other shops expected to participate in the review include GM roster shops D'Arcy Masius Ben ton & Bowles and McCann-Erickson, both Troy, Mich, and Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York. FCB Chicago may also pitch the business, sources said. The Rich ards Group, Dallas, and The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., both finalists in GM's recent Hummer review, are also expected to participate, sources said.

Riney has had the $300 million account since Saturn's 1990 de but. The agency has used the same companywide tagline since then: "A different kind of company. A different kind of car."

The search will last about four months, with a decision at the end of March, Gardner said.

The review committee will include Saturn execs such as Jill Lajdziak, vp of sales, service and marketing, and Saturn dealers. No consultant will be used, said Gardner.

GM may consider offering competitors a fee to vye for the account, as it did in the recent re view for its Hummer business (which was won by Modernista! in Boston). Finalists in that review received a $45,000 "creative consulting fee," according to sources.

Spending for the Ion launch has not been finalized, Gardner said.