The Richards Group has won the estimated $5-10 million advertising account of Sewell Automotive Companies.
The Dallas shop triumphed in the finals of a a review over Launch Partnership in Irving, Texas, and Levenson & Hill and Square One, both in Dallas.
"Their creative capabilities are what put them over the edge," said Barry Pryor, managing partner of Sewell-Lexus. "That and we just felt a sense of confidence in them."
That confidence, Pryor suggested, might be linked to Richards' prior work for the Texas Cadillac dealers group.
Richards gets a clean slate and no instructions about how to allocate ad spending among television, radio and print, Pryor said.
"We're going into this with an open mind," he said. "We're not married to any medium."
Richards' toughest task will be integrating a brand that encompasses nine makes of cars spread out among 17 dealerships in New Orleans, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas. Marques represented by Sewell include Cadillac, Saab, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, GMC, Chevrolet, Hummer, Lexus and Infiniti.
Agency principal Stan Richards told Adweek the focus is squarely on the Sewell brand.
"It's got to be all about building relationships and creating customers for life," Richards said. "It doesn't make a difference if the Sewell logo goes on a Lexus or a GMC."
Since Sewell split with now defunct Berry-Brown three years ago, the dealer has not had a formal agency relationship. Ross Puskar and Jim Gibbon, founding principals of Puskar Gibbon Chapin (now PGC Advertising), have worked with Sewell on a project basis. Ward Communications of Dallas has handled media buying.
"There is no one who is more focused on building and maintaining relationships with customers than Sewell," said Richards principal Scott Crockett. "Carl Sewell's book, Customers for Life, is the best example of how to conduct business while retaining customers year after year."
Pryor insisted he would not be concerned if Richards won Hyun-dai's creative business. The agency is one of five finalists for the car maker's $160 million account, expected to be awarded in April.
"We deal primarily in the luxury end of the market," Pryor said.
The Sewell car dealership network tallies more than $750 million in annual sales.