Cadillac puts MSL in driver's seat as PR AOR

Kovert Creative was the incumbent on the account.

NEW YORK: MSL has unseated Kovert Creative as Cadillac’s PR AOR.

MSL started working with the automobile company on May 2, following an RFP process that started in mid-March. Cadillac invited three agencies to bid, but that group did not include Kovert, which the car company had worked with since April 2016. Mike Albano, director of comms for Cadillac, would not disclose the names of the other firms involved.

"We accelerated the entire RFP process because Cadillac is in the midst of several key product and technology launches [such as the XT6 and CT5], so we had no time to waste," said Albano, who joined Cadillac in January.

MSL is providing support with data and resources, strategic planning, storytelling and product launches. It will also help with "some aspects" of social media, Albano explained.

"Cadillac is launching a new product every six months for the next three years, so we have a lot of work ahead of us. We look forward to keeping MSL really busy in partnering with us on these launches," he said. The firm is also helping Cadillac get ready to launch its first electric vehicle in a couple of years.

The account lead at MSL is still being established. Diana Littman, MSL’s U.S. CEO, has been "intimately" involved along the entire process, said Albano.

"We brought our best cultural and creative thinking, a fresh look at how to use data to build the most insightful and agile work in market and all the passion in the world for this iconic brand," Littman said via email. "We truly believe in the potential Cadillac has to transform the industry and are honored to be part of this future-forward communications team."  

Cadillac ended its relationship with Kovert on May 1. The firm was only launched a few months before it started working with the car company by PMK-BNC veterans Lewis Kay and Joseph Assad, who are the co-CEOs of the firm. Cadillac brought the firm on amid a global PR agency review parent company General Motors was conducting across all of its brands in 2016.

Albano noted that Kovert was a great partner to Cadillac.

"The team at Kovert helped out during a critical time as the brand of Cadillac reset ourselves," said Albano. "They were the right fit at the right time. We felt the time was right to make a change as Cadillac’s role in the global auto industry evolves."

Assad said Kovert looks forward to its next engagement in the automotive space.

"We’re proud of the work we did over three years with one of the most iconic brands in the world," he said. "It’s unfortunate that Cadillac went through massive restructuring, along with the move back to Detroit from New York and the eradication of the entire team we worked with, up to and including the brand president."

Budget information was not disclosed.

Before Kovert started working with Cadillac, MSL and other agencies such as FleishmanHillard worked with the brand and other GM companies.

Earlier this year, Buick and GMC selected Weber Shandwick as their PR AOR, reuniting the Interpublic Group agency with the two General Motors brands.

The duo had been working with M Booth since October 2016, when the firm was hired amid a companywide reexamining of its agency relationships. Previously, Weber, MSL and John Doe worked with Buick and GMC.

GM revamped its agency roster in 2016, selecting FleishmanHillard as its first comms AOR for its overall brand in the U.S. At the time. PR AOR accounts for individual brands were assigned to M Booth for GMC and Buick, Weber Shandwick for Chevrolet and Kovert Creative for Cadillac.

Dozens of staffers on GM’s U.S. communications team left the company in Q1 amid steep cuts in the automaker’s workforce in North America. The company is planning to reduce its salaried head count by more than 4,000, with a broader goal of making 14,000 job cuts in total.

GM’s U.S. communications head count has decreased from about 140 to just more than 100; most eliminated roles were senior-manager-level or above, Tony Cervone, SVP of global communications, said in February. The impact on jobs outside of North America was minimal, he added.

GM reported Q1 net income of $2.15 billion, a 93.2% improvement over the first three months of 2018. However, adjusted income before interest and taxes was $2.31 billion, down 11.5% from Q1 2018. On a conference call with financial analysts, GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra attributed the results to Q1 seasonality, full size SUV production downtime and reduced volume in China.

Last week, at the PRWeek U.S. and Campaign U.S. Brand Film Festival New York, Kovert and Cadillac’s film Now That’s a Cardiac was one of five brand films honored as Best of the Best.

Assad told PRWeek last year that Cadillac was Kovert’s biggest client. At the time, he said the firm had revenue of just less than $10 million.

MSL’s 2018 revenue was $456 million globally and $144 million in the U.S. The agency saw revenue slide 3%, dragged down by business challenges in the U.S. and U.K., following 2017’s flat global revenue and 9% drop in the U.S.

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