Toyota Pulled Out Its Account in Saatchi

By: Rain Stockton

Toyota the producer of has pulled out its ?50m UK advertising business from Saatchi & Saatchi and transfers it to CHI & Partners. The Japanese automaker is Saatchi's second-biggest global account next to Procter & Gamble with $2.5bn advertising expense per year with UK as its only biggest European market.

It was already expected that CHI which has sold 49.9 percent of its stake to WPP earlier this year will be given the majority of the UK business. CHI has been working out to get the Toyota account since 2004 when it was appointed to handle the launching of the Aygo model across Europe. And since then the agency has been given pan-European briefs for the Corolla and the Yaris.

It is also CHI that handles the promotion of Toyota's luxury brand Lexus across Europe. However for this year the only UK project that it has won was Toyota's tactical advertising business.

The news of Toyota's transfer of its ad account came at the time when Saatchi is struggling find a new UK chief executive that could replace Lee Daley, who left Saatchi to join the Manchester United as commercial director last March. According to source familiar with the issue, Saatchi's EMEA, Asia, and Latin America Chief Executive Jim O'Mahony who has been heading the search for Daley's replacement could now be given the responsibility for the UK agency in addition to his other duties.

The decision of Toyota to move the majority of its UK account out of Saatchi follows the changes in the company's senior team starting last year. Toyota's former European marketing director Jon Williams has moved to Toyota GB as commercial director earlier this year in replacement of Paul Philpott who also left to join Kia UK as managing director. Similarly, Toyota GB's long-serving managing director Graham Smith has also left to take on a new role in Toyota Europe last year.

A source close to WPP said that the company's chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell has been keeping track of Toyota's business for a couple of years now and the presence of CHI in the Japanese automaker's roster was one of the primary reasons why he bought the stake in the agency.

But industry experts think that the Toyota news will not sit well with its rival automaker Ford that happens to be one of WPP's biggest clients. Publicist-owned ZenithOptimedia is handling Toyota's media planning and buying.

CHI founding partner Johnny Hornby refutes reports claiming that the agency has won the UK account and instead stated that the agency will take a more prominent role in Europe and also possibly in the US. He added, "As we understand it, it's business as usual in the UK and we haven't won the business in Europe or America, as much as we?d love to one day."

Toyota GB Marketing Director Mark Hall also said that they are still working with both Saatchi and CHI---at the moment there would be no changes.

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