Cadillac puts newcomer Kovert Creative in driver's seat as PR AOR

FleishmanHillard has been handling influencer lifestyle relations for Cadillac for three years.

The driver's seat of Cadillac's CT6
The driver's seat of Cadillac's CT6

NEW YORK: Cadillac has brought on Kovert Creative as PR AOR amid a global PR agency review parent company General Motors is conducting across all of its brands.

Kovert was selected on Thursday, following an RFP process that began earlier this year. Five agencies pitched, including FleishmanHillard, which has been handling influencer lifestyle relations for Cadillac.

"Kovert is our full global agency, responsible for all brand, product, and corporate comms strategies," said Cadillac global comms director Andrew Lipman. "One thing that set Kovert apart was their highly creative nature when it comes to content, so there will be an inherent social nature to a lot of the work they will do."

Cadillac plans to on-board Kovert immediately, with the firm working on the launch of two models, the CT6 and XT5. Although the company has already conducted a media relations campaign for the new cars, Lipman explained that Kovert will be tasked with "keeping the stories alive about these new products that are fundamentally important to [Cadillac’s] business."

Kovert was launched in January by PMK-BNC veterans Lewis Kay and Joseph Assad, who are the co-CEOs of the firm. Lipman said he previously worked with PMK-BNC during his tenure as Audi of America’s GM of communications from 2006 to 2015. PMK-BNC is Audi of America’s AOR.

"Kovert is a startup, but a very established startup when you look at the caliber of people that joined Kovert immediately and their experience," said Lipman. "That combined with this intense focus on creativity and content makes their agency align very much with what Cadillac is doing in a lot of ways."

Assad said it is an exciting time for the Cadillac brand.

"They have products coming out that have been really well received and we think there is a great opportunity – as you see ubiquity in the luxury space and a little bit of sameness – that Cadillac has a new and fresh story to tell," he said. "So we are excited to dig in on that."

Assad and Kovert VP Annie Nathan will lead a team of 12 staffers on the account.

Lipman explained that Fleishman was not AOR for Cadillac, and he decided to issue an RFP because he believed the brand needed an agency that could handle PR for the entire scope of Cadillac’s business.

"That is not to say that Fleishman couldn’t do it; that’s just not what they were scoped to do," said Lipman. "They were a fantastic partner that opened a tremendous amount of doors for us and created some smart programming."

Lipman said that since he joined Cadillac one year ago, Fleishman has been the only PR firm the company has worked with. Fleishman will continue to collaborate with Cadillac through the transition process.

"The presentation we did was outstanding, so I can only take my hat off to the agency that beat us," said John Saunders, FleishmanHillard president and CEO. "We’ve had a wonderful relationship with Cadillac; it is a dream client. I wish the new firm the best of luck."

Lipman said Cadillac has no plans to bring on any additional PR agency partners.

"The intention of this process was to find a comprehensive PR AOR," he said, adding that the contract is for three years. Financial information was not disclosed.

GM’s U.S. vehicle sales increased 0.9% in March, compared with a year earlier, with retail sales up 6%. However, the Cadillac brand’s sales dropped 5.1%, year-over-year, in the month.

GM’s goal is to consolidate with one PR AOR per brand. GM’s marketing function has already moved toward a one brand, one agency model.

GM has been preparing a series of global briefs, most of which will emerge in the second and third quarters of 2016 and extend to non-incumbent firms. Agencies such as Fleishman, Weber Shandwick, and MSLGroup, which work on Chevrolet and Cadillac; Weber, MSL, and John Doe on Buick and GMC; and multiple agencies on corporate have been on high alert.

The process is being driven by a push for efficiency, not just in terms of dollars spent, but also time needed to manage it, GM global communications leader Tony Cervone told PRWeek in December. Various small agencies support the automaker, as well, especially on a regional basis.

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