CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/DAEWOO - Interpublic buyout threatens to queer the Daewoo ad pitch. Daewoo is confident that it will find a suitable agency, as Camilla Palmer reports

Last week might not have been the ideal time for Nigel Unwin, the marketing services manager of Daewoo, to review the Korean car manufacturer's £10 million advertising account.

Two weeks ago, Vauxhall announced it was looking for a non-network second agency to work alongside Lowe on its £60 million UK account. The number of agencies which could handle any car client without conflict is small and Daewoo, as the second manufacturer to announce its intentions this month, could find itself struggling with an even smaller choice for its pitchlist should shops opt to tilt at Vauxhall instead.

Compounding the problem is the intended sale of a majority stake of Daewoo to Vauxhall's parent company, General Motors, after the bankruptcy of its parent, Daewoo Group, in November 2000. The deal could have ramifications for a Daewoo agency since GM's advertising is consolidated into the Interpublic group. The sale is expected to conclude in May.

Unwin denies that any of this will affect his pitch process. Working with ISBA, he intends to draw up a shortlist of three agencies and appoint one before DFGW's six-month notice period concludes in September. DFGW has declined to repitch, but its chief executive, Michael Finn, has said the agency is happy to continue working on the account if Unwin is unimpressed with the agencies he shortlists.

Unwin claims he is unfettered by the constraints of potential consolidation.

"We're expecting Daewoo's marketing and advertising to remain independent as a result of its acquisition by GM,

he says. "It is not a given that Interpublic networks will take the business."

However, some sources claim that the threat of Daewoo's advertising being pooled into Interpublic will be enough to dissuade the kind of small, independent agencies Unwin wants to pitch for the business. "I think people will be thinking hard about whether to get involved with Daewoo at such a sensitive time,

the head of one such agency says. "They will think about the future of the company from a long-term point of view."

Others claim that Interpublic's FCB network would be a sensible choice for Daewoo. Its UK agency, Banks Hoggins O'Shea/FCB, has no car client on its books.

Unwin claims to be equally undaunted by the prospect of conducting a pitch alongside Vauxhall - potentially a big sister within GM, whose larger billings could be seen as a more attractive option for agencies. "There are a dozen or so good agencies that could handle our business - we're in no rush,

he says. "We have time on our side, as DFGW will be working on the account for another six months.

He adds that with the launch of the new Kalos model, the above-the-line spend is likely to increase.

Rumours were flying last week that the review was itself sparked by Daewoo's financial problems, as DFGW refused to bow to the UK division's cost-cutting tactics.

Unwin stresses that the review of the agency's eight-year tenure on the business is all part of a long-term strategy, although there are grounds to doubt this assertion. "There was no financial dispute -after such a long time, it is time for a review,

he insists. Unwin took the marketing helm at Daewoo last September, replacing Pat Farrell, who made the original DFGW appointment.

Daewoo appointed DFGW to launch the brand in the UK in 1994, producing acclaimed work in 1995 and introducing "That'll be the Daewoo

and "The biggest car company you've never heard of

into the advertising lexicon.

Daewoo was Campaign's Advertiser of the Year and it won an IPA Effectiveness award in 1995 and a bronze APG planning award last year. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders show that five years after its UK launch, Daewoo had a market share of 1.61 per cent - a respectable rise from zero presence.

Much of Daewoo's success was due to initiatives such as service guarantees and non-commission earning dealers that have since been copied by rival dealers. However, the company's increasingly rocky financial status has led to the departure of most of those initiatives and the ousting of Farrell, who introduced them.

Whoever takes on the Daewoo advertising task is unlikely to have the help of such tactical measures as they attempt to navigate the rough waters currently swirling around the brand.

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