Land Rover North America (LRNA) has appointed Young & Rubicam, based in Irvine, California, as its new North American advertising agency effective October 10, taking over from GSD&M, of Austin, Texas.

By adding advertising and media placement business in North America, Y&R will now handle all of Land Rover's worldwide advertising requirements and their first US assignment will be the launch of the three-door Freelander in late 2002.

"We deeply appreciate what Roy Spence and his team at GSD&M have done to position and brand Land Rover in North America,” said LRNA marketing VP Jon Williams.

“Their effort was exceptional and so was the work. But our changing corporate structure and new directions being taken by Land Rover pointed to this move.

“The appointment is a corporate decision for Land Rover and does not reflect any dissatisfaction with GSD&M's work."

So said the Ford press statement but a report on The Car Connection (TCC) website earlier this week put an alternative perspective on the move.

Describing LRNA as “seemingly stuck in a rut”, and accurately predicting the $50 million advertising account would shift to Young & Rubicam, which also handles Ford's Jaguar and Lincoln-Mercury business, TCC said the 57% sales increase since last year hides a disappointing Freelander launch and the fact that Range Rover's sales were depressed last year as buyers held off waiting for the redesigned 2003 model.

According to TCC, GSD&M won the Land Rover business in March 2000 after the firing of longtime agency Grace & Rothchild in New York, which had created award-winning and memorable advertising for the British marques that was imitated by many other luxury SUV marketers.

TCC said that, six months ago, GSD&M launched a new ad effort themed ‘The Most Well Travelled Vehicles On Earth’ after previously launching a short-lived, unsuccessful campaign themed ‘Courage’.

A departure from Land Rover's traditional safari and caviar imagery, one ad showed a pregnant woman wearing a bikini on a beach, the website added.

TCC’s view is that, “after many years of enviable clarity in the marketplace, Land Rover's image has been muddled over the last two years”.

The website said that increasing competition in the premium SUV segment is “giving the brand's current managers worry lines” and it expects that Y&R's UK campaign, themed "Beyond" will be adapted for the US.

TCC said shifting the LRNA business to Y&R will save Ford money because the agency already handles Land Rover advertising in other markets including Great Britain.

It noted that Mike O'Driscoll, recently appointed head of PAG's British Group, which includes Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin, was most recently in charge of Jaguar, which also uses Y&R.

GSD&M was named agency for Land Rover while the company was still owned by BMW, TCC said.

The website added that Ford has all of its advertising business with Britain-based WPP Group, and doesn't like to go outside WPP for agency work but GSD&M had a "no-cut clause" that only recently expired.

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