Mercedes Hunt Off to Slow Start

The search for a new agency to handle Mercedes-Benz of North America’s $125 million creative account could be a long and winding road.
At press time, Mercedes had yet to hold meetings with executives from either of the two advertising holding companies that handle the bulk of parent DaimlerChrysler’s business–True North Communications, Chicago, and Omnicom Group, New York–or their affiliated ad agencies, said sources. Mercedes, which pulled the account from Lowe & Partners/SMS last week, said it will meet with TN and Omnicom before deciding whether to stage a full-scale review.
TN executives declined comment last week, as did John Wren, president and chief executive of Omnicom. Leo-Arthur Kelmenson, chairman of TN’s Bozell Worldwide, said “there have been no conversations or contact with Mercedes about its account with us at any time.”
A spokesman for Montvale, N.J.-based Mercedes said “there have been no discussions with either True North or Omnicom about the ad account.”
Nevertheless, the two holding companies are already plotting how to impress Mercedes chief executive Michael Jackson and marketing head Joe Eberhardt. TN, for example, plans to position FCB as the best choice, said sources. The strategy could be driven by DaimlerChrysler’s aversion to consolidating all of its North American business at Bozell’s Southfield, Mich. office. Bozell handles a huge chunk of Chrysler work, including Plymouth and Jeep. FCB has worked on Ford-owned Mazda.
Omnicom, meanwhile, is expected to offer multiple choices from its arsenal, ranging from global networks like BBDO and TBWA, to smaller shops like GSD&M, Austin, Texas, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, and Merkley Newman Harty, New York. Omnicom is viewed as the favorite [Adweek, Feb. 8]. “Anything Mercedes wants–whether its a global agency or a boutique–Omnicom can provide,” said a source.