Martin Loses Last of Saab USA

General Motors’ Saab USA has pulled the last portion of its account from The Martin Agency.

The Richmond, Va., shop, a unit of the Interpublic Group, lost its bid to retain the automaker’s $10-15 million domestic direct- and relationship-marketing account.

Brann Worldwide, a unit of the Havas-owned Arnold agency network, prevailed following a review that included Martin, which handled the business for six years.

Also participating in the pitch, according to Saab direct marketing manager Al Fontova, were the IPG team of MRM Partners, New York, and Austin Kelley, Atlanta; the Omnicom team of Integer, Denver, and Targetbase, Irving, Texas; and independents Digitas, Boston; Carlson Marketing, Minneapolis; and Bennett Kuhn Varner, Atlanta.

In April 2001, the creative portion of Saab’s $40 million advertising account moved from Martin to sister shop Lowe in New York. (Lowe was not invited to pitch Saab’s direct business.) Media for all GM brands is with IPG’s GM Mediaworks (buying) and Publicis’ GM Planworks (planning).

John Adams, chairman and chief executive officer of Martin, could not be reached for comment.

Agency representative Dean Jarrett declined to say how many staff members worked on the account, but said he did not anticipate layoffs to result.

“We were disappointed to lose the business,” Jarrett said. “However, it does free us up from any conflicts in the category.”

Martin has held an automotive account since the late 1980s, when it created work for Maserati. The shop then partnered with New York’s Scali McCabe Sloves for Mercedes-Benz until 1997, when it won Saab.

“We’ve done almost everything you can think of to sell cars,” said Jarrett.

Brann was not among the shops to receive a request for proposal, but made a late entry into the review after reading about it in the trade press. “We crashed the gates in this one,” said Paul Walczyk, executive vice president and general manager of Brann in Baltimore. “We were a long shot, but sometimes long shots win.”

A key factor in Brann’s victory was its strong CRM background, Fontova said.

Brann’s first direct and e-mail campaign will break in the spring. The work will promote the launches of Saab’s 9-3 Arc and Vector Sport sedans, Fontova said.

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