Fiat Chrysler puts OMD in the passenger seat

In the middle of last year, a new force officially arrived on the local automotive scene, with Fiat Chrysler NZ claiming it would soon be in the country’s top ten advertisers. And it has appointed OMD Auckland as its new strategic communications and media buying agency in New Zealand. 

The Fiat Chrysler network—which is a 50-50 joint venture between Sydney-based New Zealand businessman Neville Crichton, the multi-millionaire automotive dealer and boating baron behind Ateco Automotive (it distributes Chinese brands Great Wall, Chery and Foton trucks in New Zealand) and Australian Clyde Campbell—controls the Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands in this market, and the group is looking to step up its marketing operations in the year ahead. In fact, last year, Campbell confidently said at the press launch that “you will see us more than you’ll see McDonalds”. 

Robin Wilson from Fuse, OMD’s PR and activation arm, said there was no pitch involved and that the decision to move wasn’t part of a regional alignment. 

We asked for a chat with sales and marketing manager Greg MacDonald but he was unavailable as of publishing time, but he said in a release that the change comes at a pivotal time for the group. 

“Auto sales are picking up pace, and following the local alignment of the Fiat and Chrysler distribution channels we’ve never been better positioned to meet this growing demand,” he says. “We believe OMD Auckland can offer us the kind of scale, expertise and strong emphasis on delivering business results required to achieve our goals.” 

OMD Auckland’s general manager Zac Stephenson said “the role of media for auto brands has evolved significantly over the last few years and digital in particular is a crucial part of the purchase journey”. 

“With our freshly-bolstered strategic and digital planning resource we’re confident we can deliver results-focused, integrated media solutions that keep Fiat Chrysler NZ ahead of the curve, and deliver business success for the entire brand portfolio.” 

Campbell said last year: “Selling the company, the brand and its products—what the salesperson used to do in the showroom—now largely takes place on the internet as customers research their buying decision online. So we will be lifting our internet presence that is serving customers, dealers and even the media to new levels.” 

He said New Zealand TV viewers would also be seeing a lot more of Fiat and Chrysler products due to a combination of the greater power of the new group to buy airtime and a greater emphasis on television. 

“Television is the most effective tool to alert customers to new products and prices,” Campbell said. “And it can then guide them to our enhanced internet presence where we and our dealers can clearly demonstrate that our products are the ideal choice for their customers’ automotive needs.”

  • Check out Fiat’s recent stunt to tie in to the Godzilla launch. 

Update: According to Nielsen’s AIS figures, which are based on ratecard value, Fiat Chrysler Group NZ’s total ad spend for 2013 was $10,365,855, although it was only established in May 2013. The combined total ad spend for Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge was $11,762,898 in 2013, $3,031,585 in 2012 and $3,186,516 in 2011.

According to stuff.co.nz, Ateco managed to take the distribution rights for the American brands off Sime-Darby, in exchange for Citroen (Sime Darby also holds its sister brand Peugeot). In Australia, where Crichton has made much of his fortune, Fiat Chrysler took back a significant chunk of the distribution rights and he was forced to sell the rights in that market. But Crichton and Campbell managed to retain the rights in New Zealand.

Globally, the Fiat Chrysler Group was formed in 2009 when Italy’s Fiat bought a controlling stake in the bankrupt Chrysler Group (it bought the remaining shares early this year for US$4.35 billion). Since then Fiat Chrysler has been working to ensure that all the benefits of the new company are applied in all areas of the world. And this has meant in many cases bringing together separate importers for the Italian and North American brands.

Campbell admitted the company was brand rich yet product poor and it wouldn’t have any new products to sell until 2014, so Fiat Chrysler was aiming to reposition existing products to boost sales. According to the Herald, “Fiat Chrysler wants to grow sales 60 percent to more than seven million cars and trucks by 2018. The companies sold 4.4 million cars and trucks last year, compared with 6.3 million for Detroit rival Ford. Toyota was the global leader with sales of 9.98 million vehicles.” 

It’s thought Ikon held the media business in this market previously, through an alignment to Fiat’s global media agency Maxus (Ikon also handled the media for Ateco’s Chinese brands, with Obsidian on creative). 

It’s not clear if Fiat Chrysler uses a local creative agency, but last year the creative was thought to be coming from Melbourne.

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