Saturn Contenders Get Briefed

DETROIT — The five contenders for Saturn’s $30-50 million Ion account inspected a prototype of the car and were given a speculative creative assignment during their first briefing in Motor City last week, sources said.

Senior management from roster shop Publicis & Hal Riney, as well as Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, McCann-Erickson and Wieden + Kennedy all traveled to Detroit last week to be briefed at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich.

Sources described the meetings as largely informal. Agency executives were told that the 2003 Ion sedan is being designed as a “customer-friendly” small car emphasizing interior room and a smooth ride that will be marketed to under-40 consumers.

Details also emerged last week about the pitch teams. Sources said D’Arcy’s team is split between the New York and Troy, Mich., offices. Leaders include Pat Sherwood, president of D’Arcy North America, who was Riney’s first account director on Saturn.

Other leaders, said sources, are Mercedes veteran Lee Garfinkel and D’Arcy Troy’s chief creative officer, Gary Topolewski. McCann’s pitch is being handled by the agency’s New York office, sources said. Goodby’s pitch team is led by agency principal Jeff Goodby, sources said, while Hal Riney has returned to help the shop he founded retain the account.