Newly-appointed Carat opens 200-strong General Motors office in Detroit

It’s one thing to win these whopper global accounts, quite another to make them work.

Last year Aegis-owned Carat won the $3bn General motors global media account, mostly from Publicis Groupe’s Starcom but also from about 50 or so agencies handling bits and pieces across the world (Carat handled GM in Europe).

The deal is believed to include a clause stipulating that Carat makes little or no profit for the first two years of what is intended to be a five-year contract.

But these days working for a Detroit client means you have to show a major commitment to the embattled city (which is once again on the brink of going bust) so Carat is opening a 200-strong office in the motor city. This would be expected anyway but GM is insistent that its suppliers support its home town with jobs and money too.

“We think it’s even more important to show this commitment right now,” says GM global CMO Joel Ewanick (pictured). “We know what it’s like to have friends come and help us when we’re going through hard times, and we want to be that kind of good citizen right now. We understand how much work this is, fixing the city. We’re not going to wilt away from that.”

Some industry insiders are predicting that GM could save up to 20 per cent on its $3bn media bill through the deal with Carat, which looks a pretty daunting prospect. Part of Carat’s successful pitch seems to have been a heavy social media strategy, which should be cheaper to buy than TV advertising.

Carat’s Martin Cass, who is to oversee the new Detroit office, says: “The planning element and strategy element of what we do will have a very significant impact on how GM goes to market. The way you see commercials for Chevrolet and Cadillac will start to look different – not just what it says, but how the brand behaves in the global ecosystem we all live in today.” Which does, indeed, imply more social media and other forms of digital.

Ewanick says: “We should’ve done this global review and global integration ten years ago, most companies our size have already gone through this. We’re late to the party. It’s not only a money decision, it allows us as a marketing organization to be more efficient at how we look at our buying, our best practices.”

One of which, obviously, will be a lower media bill.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.