GM brands get new PR agencies

Melissa Burden and Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

General Motors Co., which is aiming to bolster and separately market its four U.S. car and truck divisions, is tapping new public relations agencies to boost the visibility of its brands.

In April, Cadillac selected boutique agency Kovert Creative in New York for its work, and tapped Weber Shandwick last month as the public relations agency of record for GM’s largest brand, Chevrolet. Buick and GMC are expected to put out a request for proposal for one public relations agency of record for the two brands by the end of the year. The brands now work on a project basis with two companies, John Doe in New York and MSLGROUP, which has a Troy office.

Separately, Leo Burnett and DigitasLBi, advertising agencies that work on the Buick and GMC brands, confirmed Thursday a new initiative called Engage M-1, combining efforts and employees of the two Publicis Groupe agencies. Leo Burnett, with an office in Troy, and DigitasLBi in Detroit already worked on the Buick and GMC accounts, and nobody is expected to lose their jobs with the change, said Jill Kelly, chief communications officer for DigitasLBi, in an email. Engage M-1 has about 250 employees.

“After years working together on General Motors in Southeast Michigan, DigitasLBi and Leo Burnett will come together as a united partnership — Engage M-1 (reflecting the central roadway of Detroit) — serving our General Motors clients including Buick and GMC,” Kelly said in an email. “While current locations (and agency brands) will be maintained, this team shares a mission of providing world class work to our clients.”

Buick and GMC, in a statement, said its ad agencies remain the same. “This initiative (Engage M-1) led by Publicis Groupe, is more about bringing deeper collaboration across these existing agency partners to best service clients like us,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

A new Leo Burnett produced ad began airing Thursday for the 2016 Buick Envision SUV. The national “Rock-A-Bye” ad features a father taking a drive in the Envision to try to get his son to fall asleep. It will run on Fox, ABC, CBS, AMC, CNN and TNT, and air during prime-time programs, such as “Bones” and “Scandal,” and during the U.S. Open golf tourney this weekend.

The new China-built SUV, starting at about $43,000, began arriving at dealerships on the West Coast last month and 89 were sold. A Buick spokesman said the compact Envision SUV this month is beginning to arrive at dealerships on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, GM’s Cadillac brand named Kovert Creative as its global public relations agency of record, following an extensive, multi-agency review that included FleishmanHillard, which had been performing influential, lifestyle-driven work for Cadillac, after working without a public relations agency of record. A representative from FleishmanHillard could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Cadillac, which in 2015 moved its headquarters from Detroit to New York, is working to differentiate itself from the rest of GM’s brands as the luxury brand works to remake its image and attract new and younger buyers.

“Kovert was very, very in line with the Cadillac organization of today,” Cadillac spokesman Andrew Lipman said.

Kovert formed in January 2016 in partnership with WME | IMG, a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion. The New York-based firm is in charge of developing and executing overall brand, product and corporate communications strategies for Cadillac.

Weber Shandwick Executive Vice President Steve Janisse declined to comment on the Chevrolet account, citing ongoing negotiations.

(313) 222-2319