It’s Official: Saturn to Deutsch

LOS ANGELES General Motors has confirmed shifting ad chores on its Saturn brand to Interpublic Group’s Deutsch/LA in Marina del Rey, Calif., from Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. first reported yesterday that GM had split with Goodby, Silverstein and would shift the business to Deutsch.

GM spent $190 million advertising Saturn through the first 11 months of last year after spending $215 million in 2005, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Mike Jackson, vp, marketing and advertising at GM North America, said, GM has named Deutsch/LA “for all creative work related to its Saturn brand, effective May 1. The transition of this account from Goodby to Deutsch will begin immediately.”

Mike Sheldon, co-president of Deutsch/LA, said, “We are beyond excited to work with this truly iconic brand. They’ve got phenomenal cars, a phenomenal heritage and we’re looking forward to putting more shine on this already incredible brand.” He added, “The agency has been on a roll for the last year, and done some phenomenal work for GM including a Super Bowl spot that will run Sunday. Now it’s our job to hunker to down and drive the hell out of Saturn’s business.”

Goodby added the account in 2002. The agency began the relationship with some award-winning TV work, but recently had trouble selling through any new campaigns [Adweek, Jan. 8].

“Goodby has done a great job,” said Jackson. “In 2006, Saturn was one of only two brands [at GM] to grow, so we feel good about that. But we feel that Deutsch/LA is the right partner at the right time and place to take Saturn to the next level.”

Jackson said that because Saturn’s next launch, for the Outlook, is “within weeks,” the creative support “more than likely” would come from Goodby.

“We’re happy to have worked for Saturn at this critical time in their brand’s history,” said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of Goodby, Silverstein. “They’re in good shape, they’ve got great cars, and we’re proud of the work we did for them. We will all watch their new work with great interest.” He had no further comment, but sources said Saturn vp, sales and marketing Jill Lajdziak called the agency on Tuesday with the news of the dismissal.

Of late, the account has been a source of frustration for Goodby. The agency’s most innovative solutions for the GM brand last year came from beyond broadcast. That work showcased Saturn using Google’s new geo-targeting technology, Earth, to deliver specific content to consumers. And to promote the new Green Line, the agency created an interactive installation at Wired‘s NextFest.

The account acquisition marks another milestone in Deutsch/LA’s comeback since losing Mitsubishi nearly two years ago. In 2006, the shop in Marina del Rey, Calif., won major assignments from GM (for both its Chevrolet nameplate and GM’s warranty plan), as well as new business such as Helio and a return engagement with DirecTV.

“The opportunity with Saturn is really simple,” said Eric Hirshberg, Deutsch/LA co-president and CCO. “It’s one of the most iconic brands not just in the automotive business, but business, period. But it’s lost its luster; the love affair has gone dormant. Our job is to rekindle it.”

Saturn sales rose 6 percent in 2006 to more than 226,000 units, according to Car Concepts in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

“Saturn is up for the year, mostly on the strength of the new entry, the Aura. But Ion is flat, and I would have expected the Saturn Vue, as a compact SUV to be doing better, as opposed to being down about 4 percent [in 2006],” said Todd Turner, principal analyst at Car Concepts. “With half its lineup being essentially new, one would expect to be up more than 6 percent.”

This story updates an item posted Jan. 30 with client confirmation and additional comments and details.