GM Media Units Win Jackpot

General Motors’ media units Planworks and Mediaworks have added at least $500 million in media duties and could gain as much as $1 billion overall as the automaker continues to reorganize its relationships with dealers into what it calls Local Marketing Groups.

Each of GM’s creative agencies has already adapted to the LMG system, partnering with local retail shops to work with the dealers. They will also see increased business as more LMGs sign on.

The two media units could also add another $100 million in local- dealer duties from Saturn. The business had been handled by Saturn’s creative agency, Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, but is currently up in the air after the account moved crosstown to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners last month.

“The decision on Saturn planning is up to the dealer council,” said Dennis Donlin, Planworks president. “We hope we’ll be one of the options they’ll be looking at.”

The company is about halfway through converting its former locally organized and autonomous dealer- marketing groups into company-sanctioned LMGs, according to GM representative Peg Holmes.

In February 2001, GM established its regional sales- and marketing-operations structure, dividing the country into five regions, and took greater control of local ad spending. Nearly 400 LMGs had come together as of February; their dealers sell more than 50 percent of the automaker’s nearly 5 million units sold annually in the U.S., Holmes said.

To absorb the new business, Planworks has established a dedicated group that is working with GM’s field-operations team to help them sign up dealers to join LMGs.

“We geared this group to make sure it’s driven by the dealers and customizes the solution in [local markets] based on feedback from the dealer groups,” Donlin said.

The unit is headed by Vickie Nash, who once worked for Media Vest and has returned as managing director of Planworks’ LMG unit. Lisa Pil zner, formerly of Foote, Cone & Belding, Detroit, and a seasoned veteran of local dealer-group media planning, was recently hired to run a group that handles most of the divisions.