Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Places Its U.S. Media Account in Review

IPG's UM has been invited to defend

Sales of the Jeep brand have led the parent company to surpass rivals like Ford. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, one of the world’s largest automakers, has launched a U.S. media review for the first time in nearly nine years, a company spokesperson confirmed. AdAge first reported the news Tuesday evening.

The business went to UM in a late 2009 review, with the agency’s Detroit, New York and Los Angeles offices leading the account. The IPG network beat out Dentsu’s Carat and Omnicom’s PHD in that pitch and, in 2016, promoted Scott Russell to president of its Detroit-based central region to oversee all aspects of the FCA account.

“FCA confirms it is requesting quotes for its media agency services as part of a bid process in the ordinary course of business,” said the FCA representative. “We value our partnership with UM and we hold its team in high regard. They will be included as a candidate in the bid process.”

The spokesperson declined to elaborate beyond the above statement, and representatives for UM did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sources close to the matter told Adweek that UM executives were notified of the pending review on Monday. At this time it is unclear which other agencies will be invited to pitch.

The remit will cover media planning and buying for all of the Italian-American company’s major brands including Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge and Ram.

FCA is only the latest major auto brand to re-examine its marketing strategy as car ownership dips amid competition from ride-share upstarts, rental platforms and subscription service models. In the last month alone, Ford, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have launched global reviews of their creative and/or media business.

Many of those companies explicitly cited a desire to cut costs as the driver behind the reviews, with Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller going so far as to tell the German press that “We’ve spent far too much money on paid media in the past, [and] we want to change that.”

Yet FCA, which was formed in 2014 by the merger of Chrysler and Italy’s Fiat, has seen profits jump due to a recent boom in sales of its highest-margin models, most prominently luxury Jeep sedans and Ram Trucks. The company, which declared bankruptcy in 2009 months before Fiat completed a takeover, has also seen its stock price more than double over the past year.

Like many clients, FCA has recently moved away from the traditional agency of record approach to creative and digital, assigning work to a disparate roster of cross-holding group agencies including DDB, GS&P, Doner, Huge and Chicago indie Highdive on a largely per-project basis. In 2015, CMO Olivier Francois said he “welcomes creative ideas from all our global agencies for all brands.”

Various estimates have the client spending at least $1 billion on paid media annually across its brand portfolio, though that total has vacillated considerably in recent years.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.