5 Agencies Contend for Saturn’s Ion Account

The five agencies pitching Saturn’s $30-50 million Ion account inspected a prototype of the car and were asked to design a speculative campaign during their first briefing in Motor City, sources said.

Roster shop Publicis & Hal Riney, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, McCann-Erickson and Wieden + Kennedy all sent senior executives to Detroit last week for what sources described as an “orientation.”

The briefings were held last Tuesday and Wednesday at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich. Agency executives were told the 2003 Ion will be marketed specifically to under-40 consumers.

Saturn said the sedan and a later Ion coupe are being designed as “customer-friendly” small cars emphasizing interior room and a smooth ride. Built on a new platform with a redesigned engine, both models will replace Saturn’s current S-series cars—its bestselling line.

Details also emerged about how pitches are being handled.

Sources said D’Arcy’s pitch team is split between the New York and Troy, Mich., offices. Pitch leaders include Pat Sherwood, president of D’Arcy North America, who was Riney’s first account director on Saturn. The other leaders, according to sources, are Mercedes veteran Lee Garfinkel and D’Arcy Troy’s chief creative officer Gary Topolewski, who worked for many years at now-defunct FCB, Southfield, Mich.

McCann’s pitch is being handled by the agency’s New York office, sources said. The Troy office will help put together work for the pitch, but wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict with the Buick account, sources said.

Goodby’s pitch team is headed up by agency principal Jeff Goodby, sources said, while Hal Riney has returned to help the shop he founded retain the account. Riney president Scott Marshall was also traveling last week. Sources said he was in Detroit.

It could not be immediately determined who was handling the pitch for Wieden.

It is widely expected that the winner of Ion business will take the entire $300 million Saturn account.