BBDO and Chrysler: A Brief, Dateless History of How Client Screwed Agency

By Matt Van Hoven 

There’s been much printed about the relationship between BBDO and Chrysler during their decades long pact. But since Fiat took over things have gone awry for the agency that has three times been named network of the year by Cannes (2007, 2008, 2009). Where fault should be laid is neither pertinent nor important. What’s done is done. But agencies pitching may want to give this a read, if for nothing else, context.

Some bits we’ve rounded up:


&#151 produced an average of 3,500 ads per year over the past ten years…35,000 in total. That’s like between 65-70 ads per week.

&#151 won nearly 1,000 creative awards over the past ten years.

&#151 helped generate more than 12 million prospects.

&#151 created experiential events like Camp Jeep.

&#151 helped manage more than 13,000 events on Chrysler’s behalf over the past ten years.

&#151 employees have put in more than 8 million work hours on the Chrysler business in the past ten years.

&#151 notable efforts include branding the Dodge HEMI (“That thing got a Hemi?”) and successfully launching the 4-door Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler 300.

&#151 Over the past four years, they’ve dealt with:
1. 3 different owners
2. 4 CEOs
3. 5 heads of marketing
4. 60% contraction in sales volume

To tie it all off, let’s not forget the quality of recent creative (from new agencies), the $55 million Chrysler owed BBDO (who stood by, smiling). Not to mention that BBDO can’t go after another automotive client until the contract ends in January. Meanwhile, Volkswagen has landed with Deutsch LA and GM is allegedly taking bids as we speak. Whatever you may think, BBDO has taken its knocks from a client that continually shot itself in the foot. And then asked the American public to pay the medical bill.

Obviously BBDO couldn’t walk away from Chrysler &#151 the client meant too much to the agency financially; jobs would have been lost, etc. But now that BBDO Detroit is near its end, the question becomes should agency have walked away earlier (and gone after a different automotive client). But that, of course, is Wednesday afternoon quarterbacking.

More:BBDO, Chrysler to Call it a Day in 2010?