MONTVALE, NJ: Mercedes-Benz is beefing up its US PR efforts in a big way, hiring Magnet Communications as its first agency of record in the US.
Mercedes, coming off of six straight record sales years in the US, has been expanding into a variety of vehicle niches and price ranges. As it seeks out new buyer segments, "it became apparent that we absolutely need an agency," said Donna Boland, department manager of sales, marketing, and corporate communications.
After a nearly seven-month search, Mercedes picked Magnet because it was impressed with the agency's creativity, and because it didn't want to work with a large agency, said Boland. Magnet is "the right size. We weren't looking for a big agency where we would be a little fish in a big pond," she said.
Magnet plans to devote five staffers to the Mercedes team, with others helping as needed, said Diane McCulloch, SVP and head of Magnet's branding communications practice. Magnet CEO David Kratz will be involved with the account on a weekly basis, while McCulloch will oversee it.
"I would say they're going to be involved in virtually all aspects of what we're doing," said Boland. "What we needed was help in augmenting what we were doing internally, and expanding and leveraging those efforts," she said.
While Mercedes considered four finalists, Magnet grabbed its attention with the passion it demonstrated for the brand, Boland said. When Mercedes staff visited Magnet's office, agency staffers had printed out photos of various Mercedes they most identified with, and displayed them on their desks.
While budgets are still being finalized, Boland said the automaker will spend under $1 million with Magnet.
Magnet will initially help refine Mercedes' media efforts, matching outreach for various models with publications that appeal to the demographic group that buyers for those models are in, Boland said. It will also work on gaining exposure for classic Mercedes models, playing up the long heritage of the automaker.
The Magnet hire follows other moves to expand PR resources at Mercedes.
Last year, it created two new regional PR manager positions, and hired industry veteran Geno Effler from Kia to handle West Coast PR. At the same time, it picked Jim Resnick, a Mercedes veteran who had been handling product and technology PR, to head up PR in the East region.