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Saturn Wraps Pitches

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Five agencies vying for Saturn's $30-50 million Ion account made their final play for the business last week in meetings sources described as no-nonsense.

The shops are incumbent Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco; McCann-Erickson, Troy, Mich., and New York; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy and New York; and Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore. The winner is expected to get the entire $300 million Saturn account.

Sources said shops had three hours to present campaigns for the "customer-friendly'' vehicle, which will be targeted to the under-40 set. Pitches were held in Detroit Tuesday through Thursday; about eight people from the client side were present for each pitch. Sources said the meetings were straightforward, but that the contenders received a warm reception when they finished.

Sources described Goodby's campaign as somewhat similar in tone to work created by Riney. Those ads used the tagline: "A different kind of company. A different kind of car."

One wild card was the appearance of General Motors North America chairman Bob Lutz at as many as three pitches, sources said. Lutz appeared during McCann-Erickson's pitch, but was absent for Goodby and Wieden's pitches, sources said. It was unclear if Lutz appeared during D'Arcy or Riney's pitches.

Some sources worried about their chances should Lutz be involved in the decision making; GM brass may look past shops if their ideas clash with those under development for other GM brands, sources said.

Saturn representatives say the decision rests with them. GM will defer to Saturn, according to C.J. Fraleigh, GM's executive director for corporate marketing and advertising.