Saab Awards Direct to Brann

Havas made an incursion into Interpublic Group territory last week as Brann Worldwide added the $10-15 million domestic direct-marketing account of General Motors’ Saab.

Brann, a unit of the Havas-owned Arnold agency network, won the business following a review that included IPG’s The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., which handled the account for six years. Brann’s pitch team included members of both its Wilton, Conn., headquarters and its Baltimore office.

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

Holding-company affiliations did not figure into agencies’ inclusion in the pitch, Fontova said.

IPG’s Lowe in New York handles creative on Saab’s $40 million ad account. Media for all GM brands is with IPG’s GM Mediaworks (buying) and Publicis’ GM Planworks (planning). Brann was not among the shops to receive an RFP, 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, evp, 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, which should enable it to spin large, complex amounts of customer data into a coherent creative strategy, said Fontova. Brann’s first work for the client will be a direct and e-mail campaign set to launch in the spring, supporting the upcoming launch of Saab’s new 9-3 Arc and Vector Sport sedans, Fontova said.

Though Brann has no known ties to GM, and Saab becomes the shop’s first domestic automotive account, the agency has considerable experience with cars overseas, specifically in Britain, where it has handled assignments for Volvo and Peugeot. “We have great automotive experience in the U.K. and have been looking to add to it in North America,” said Andrea Franklin, evp, chief strategy officer at Brann.

Boston-based Arnold, through which Brann reports to Havas, has long handled Volkswagen of Amer ica. Brann operates autonomously from Arnold, and so VW is not considered a conflict, agency and client officials said.