Saturn Starts Talking to Shops for Model Launch

DETROIT — Among the agencies believed to have met with Saturn executives regarding the Ion launch are Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston, Berlin Cameron & Partners in New York and Leo Burnett in Chicago, sources said last week.

Relations between Saturn’s longtime shop, Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, and the General Motors unit have been strained recently, and the review could encompass the entire account, sources said. Riney seems to have “lost interest and lost its grip on the account,” said one exec.

Others suggested the review may be no more than a result of the troubled economy, said an exec at a fellow GM agency.

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

Berlin Cameron handled a launch assignment for GM’s Cadillac Escalade, and Burnett works on Oldsmobile. Other shops expected to participate in the review include GM roster shops D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and McCann-Erickson, both Troy, Mich, and Lowe Lintas

& Partners, New York. FCB Chicago may pitch the business, sources said. The Richards Group, Dallas, and The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., both finalists in GM’s recent Hummer review, are also expected to participate, sources said.

Riney has had the $300 million account since Saturn’s 1990 debut. It has used the same companywide tagline since then: “A different kind of company. A different kind of car.”

The search will last about four months, with a decision at the end of March, Gardner said. The review committee will include Saturn execs such as Jill Lajdziak, vp of sales, service and marketing, and Saturn dealers. No consultant will be used, said Gardner.

Spending for the Ion launch has not been finalized, Gardner added. Product-launch campaigns for GM generally have ranged from $30-50 million, according to CMR.