LONDON - Interpublic Group, the holding company for General Motors' advertising agencies McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Lowe Lintas & Partners, is forming a new communications organization to help redefine GM's Opel brand in Europe.
The new Frankfurt-based Opel Brand Communications Group will help guide the Opel brand through a vital period. After a poor performance in recent years, Opel is hoping to strengthen its brand across Europe with an improved model range and a clearer marketing strategy.
A new brand strategy will reposition Opel as 'the German make with affordable technology,' said Robert Hendry, Opel chairman and managing director, at last month's Automotive News Europe Congress.
The creation of the Opel Brand Communications Group marks the latest in several organizational restructurings by Interpublic agencies to service GM in Europe.
Traditionally, GM has used Lowe in the UK and Germany and McCann in the rest of Europe. The UK will continue to be treated separately because GM sells its European cars under the Vauxhall brand there. GM, along with other automakers, has treated Germany separately because of the size of the market and because some German car brands have a less prestigious image in their home market than outside the country.
In 1997, Interpublic was surprised when GM Europe went outside its roster and assigned the important launch of the Astra in Europe to London-based Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe.
Shortly after that, Interpublic tried to force McCann and Lowe to work together by forming the Zurich-based General Motors Brand Communications Group.
In April 1999, however, that strategic unit was folded, with each agency working directly with the client. McCann created Frankfurt-based McCann-Erickson Opel Group not only to establish strategy but also to create communications under the direction of Bernd Misske, McCann's senior vice president and senior creative director, Opel Worldwide.
That structure is now superseded by the new Opel Brand Communications Group.
Upon his arrival at Opel from Saab in early 1999, Hendry said he found the Opel brand had 'lost some of its sharp contours, and was projecting a vague profile in the European market.'
Now Opel's image is ready to be moved on, he said. 'But the brand strategy does much more than position the brand in the marketplace. It also imports vision to the company.'
Interpublic will be helping Opel communicate its core product attributes, as laid out by Hendry:
Versatile use of space, with packaging that maximizes a flexible interior
Driving dynamics that feature responsive powertrains and precise chassis and suspension systems
Contemporary styling that maintains a family and brand character.
Alain Uyttenhoven, hired in November as Opel brand director from Mercedes-Benz, said the new agency structure is aimed at developing an integrated communications network.
The new unit will report to Gunnar Wilmot, executive vice president-worldwide account director for GM at McCann-Erickson, who will represent the combined interests of Interpublic.
The unit will be operational by September 1.