Saturn Seeks Ideas Beyond Riney

General Motors’ Saturn unit’s decision to look beyond its agency for campaign ideas could be more a sign of the troubled economy than a reflection on Hal Riney & Partners, said an executive at another GM shop who requested anonymity.

But others said relations between Saturn and Riney in San Francisco have been strained in recent months and the review could wind up being for the entire account.

Riney appears to have “lost interest and lost its grip on the account,” said one source. The agency has had the $300 million account since the brand was introduced in 1990.

Saturn, based in Troy, Mich., is inviting agencies, including Riney, to present ideas for the fall 2002 launch of its new ION model, said company representative Mike Gardner.

Those believed to be under consideration include Hill, Holliday, Boston, which has met with Saturn executives at least twice, sources said. Others believed to have had meetings are Berlin Camer-on, New York, which did a launch assignment for the Cadillac Escalade several years ago, and Oldsmobile shop Leo Burnett, Chicago, sources said.

Others likely to be considered are GM shops D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles and McCann-Erickson, both Troy, and Lowe Lintas, New York. FCB, without a car account after losing DaimlerChrysler to BBDO in a consolidation, is likely to pitch ION from its Chicago office, sources said. The Richards Group, Dallas, and The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., both finalists in GM’s recent Hummer review, are also likely candidates.