Land Rover Rolls Over to GSD&M

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The BMW Group, Munich, Germany, moved ahead this week with the announcement that its subsidiary division Land Rover North America, Lanham, MD, had chosen GSD&M Advertising, Austin, TX, as its new agency of record for strategic planning and brand management despite uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic regarding the unit's ownership.

The agency status of the company's direct and database management business remained less clear as rumors persisted that Land Rover was being eyed for acquisition by potential suitors other than Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, MI - namely General Motors, Detroit. Billings were not disclosed, but the account's worth is estimated at $30 million.

"The group of creative minds at GSD&M very quickly grasped exactly what constitutes the Land Rover brand," said Jim Selwa, Land Rover's vice president of marketing. "They recognized our priorities, and we feel they will be able to develop and communicate our strong brand imagery in exciting, effective new ways." He further characterized the relationship as "a good fit in terms of personalities, ideas and values."

After the announcement, executives continued to deny other offers were being made for the company. But a major buyout of the division by a competing American auto manufacturer would presumably affect the unit's advertising and marketing relationships since GSD&M is a unit of the Omnicom Group, New York, which also owns several other shops that handle account business for DaimlerChrysler. But Andrew Polsinelli, Land Rover North America's relationship marketing manager, said the GSD&M deal was secure.

"None of that's going to change," he said. "Our strategy and branding plans will not be any different." However, Polsinelli confirmed that the status of the company's database business was up in the air.

"We are on hold with that right now," he said. "We were actively in the process of hiring a database agency - but now with the continuing [acquisition] talks, I couldn't even hazard a guess as to when we might make an announcement."

Polsinelli didn't discount the possibility that some of the direct activity might be phased into the GSD&M agency relationship: "We were targeting an agency for creating better database communications, but I doubt we'll be making any decisions in that area within the next 90 days."

At GSD&M, communications director Eric Webber said that Land Rover had traditionally focused its efforts on TV and print but that dealer issues would probably spur the need to develop direct marketing materials.

The Land Rover account was awarded to GSD&M after review presentations also made by Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, and Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami. The company's previous agency was Grace & Rothschild, New York.

Optimedia International U.S., New York, is expected to continue directing Land Rover's media placement effort after its purchase of Dewitt Media Inc. in early March.

Land Rover North America Inc., established in 1986, imports Range Rover and Discovery Series II vehicles manufactured in Solihull, England, for sale in the United States. Equipped with permanent four-wheel drive, a canvas roof and optional doors, the first Land Rover vehicle was launched at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show.

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