Marketing and advertising insights for automotive suppliers

What Automotive OEM Supplier Brands Can Learn From Lee Iacocca

What Automotive OEM Supplier Brands Can Learn From Lee Iacocca

To maximize the value of your ad agency, treat them like a partner, not a vendor.

In his book “Once In A Great City: A Detroit Story,” author David Marannis writes extensively about the early 1960’s, a heyday of the American automotive industry. At the time, Lee Iacocca – who later became a global celebrity as the pitchman for the Chrysler Corporation, which he led back from the brink of bankruptcy as their President and CEO – was a young, ambitious Ford Division general manager in charge of an important new vehicle launch. 

The new vehicle would eventually be unveiled in 1964 as the Ford Mustang (today, the Mustang is in its sixth generation).

Iacocca’s Four Freedoms of Advertising

Iacocca’s philosophy regarding advertising agencies was encapsulated in a speech called “The Four Freedoms of Advertising.”

“For agencies,” Marannis wrote, “no declaration could have been more sympathetic to their cause.” 

The Four Freedoms called for total immersion and involvement of advertising agencies in the process from beginning to end:

Freedom of access
Freedom of involvement
Freedom to experiment
Freedom to persuade

Iacocca made sure agency people were involved in the development of products “darned near as soon as we are. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to call the agency in sixty days before our new model introduction and tell them to come up with some fresh ideas?”

J. Walter Thompson was Iacocca’s agency at the time. Before the name Mustang was agreed upon, the agency worked up campaign ideas based on other possibilities, including “Torino.” One of their print ads had this prescient headline forty eight years before Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” ad campaign featuring Detroit-born rapper Eminem.


Certainly, advertising and agencies have changed over the last half century. But the potential of a good, strong partnership with your ad agency on your brand marketing is timeless. For automotive OEM suppliers, agencies can be far more than just vendors.

Strong, talented agencies can bring a lot to your table.

The earlier they’re at your table, the better. Their perspective on customer research, brand messaging, product naming, logo design (for your company and your products), colors, website design, social media optimization, and more, can have a profoundly positive impact on how effective your customer communications can be.

Together, Iacocca and his agencies formed partnerships that led to some of the most successful marketing programs in automotive history.

Today, automotive OEM suppliers might benefit greatly from similar partnerships.


Ernie Perich

As the owner and creative director of Perich Advertising + Design for more than 30 years, Ernie knows a thing or two about automotive marketing. He combines brand strategy with smart creative to help automotive suppliers strike a nerve. Contact

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