AutoNation Shift Is a Boon in Miami, Houston

Decentralization Brings Marketing Windfalls to Local Agencies
ATLANTA–One Southwest and two Southeast agencies are already reaping the benefits of AutoNation USA’s recent decision to “decentralize” its marketing strategy.
Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos of Boston parted ways with the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based car sales operation over its desire to use a variety of agencies in regional markets.
The new marketing strategy will create windfalls for local shops serving 10 AutoNation districts around the U.S. Decisions have already been made in the client’s largest markets, Florida and Texas, to split work among three shops: The Ad Team and Ad Production, both Miami, will be responsible for broadcast and print, respectively, for all of Florida and Dallas; Houston’s GillCook Automotive Advertising will handle both duties in its home market.
AutoNation senior vice president of brand development John Drury said individual district vice presidents will be responsible for all marketing decisions, including advertising, in their regions.
“We’re pushing marketing down to the district level,” he said, adding that both the Chicago and Atlanta districts are “working on their solution.”
Ad Team president Zev Auberbach said his agency previously worked with the client’s new president, Mike Maroone, when he owned a string of Florida car dealerships, which were subsequently sold to AutoNation. The shop was first given a broadcast assignment for the company’s Denver dealerships.
In a letter to Drury, dated Sept. 3, HHCC president Fred Bertino wrote: “As AutoNation is headed for dramatic decentralization, [HHCC] . . . feel[s] it best to part at this time.”
AutoNation USA spent about $23 million on 1998 advertising, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
The last advertising created by HHCC to support AutoNation USA’s used vehicle mega-
stores, new car dealerships and a recently launched Internet site meant “we ended our relationship on an up note,” Drury said.