Blow for new GM Commonwealth agency as Silverado truck account moves to Leo Burnett

One of the more uncomfortable agency places to be this Christmas is Commonwealth, the new Detroit-based agency set up to handle Chevrolet by former General Motors global CMO Joel Ewanick,

Ewanick departed in July, ostensibly over a bungled shirt sponsorship deal with Manchester United.

But Commonwealth, a joint venture between Omnicom’s Goodby Silverstein and Interpublic’s McCann is his most lasting legacy – if it lasts.

It’s certainly been rocked by GM’s decision to pull the its Chevy Silverado brand out of the agency and hand it to Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett, which also handles Buick and GMC for GM.

GM says this is no more than tidying up, allowing Commonwealth to concentrate on cars: “Chevrolet will launch more than 20 products globally in 2013. That is an incredible amount of work for any advertising agency, especially a newly formed entity that is responsible for global campaigns in 140 markets. Therefore, Chevrolet will leverage General Motors’ existing agency network to support the 2014 Silverado launch next year.”

But isn’t the point of in-house agencies, which is effectively what Commonwealth is, to handle everything? Silverado is reported to be Chevy’s most profitable model in the US, with a new version coming up soon. ‘Trucks’ in the US are really big cars with a ginormous cargo space attached, so they’re aimed at individual car buyers rather than businesses.

There’s no compelling reason why Silverado and its Sierra stablemate need to be handled differently to any other Chevy brand, certainly not by a different agency.

Burnett certainly seems to think this is more than a tidying-up operation. It views events thus: “Leo Burnett is thrilled to take on responsibility for the very important Chevrolet Silverado brand and build our highly awarded and proven Detroit office. Although our relationship with GM dates all the way back to 1967, this day will certainly go down in the history of this very important partnership.”

It’s looks like Commonwealth, which has barely started, will spend the early part of 2013 fighting Leo Burnett for the heart (if such there be) and wallet of GM.

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