Panasonic Calls Review for $40 Million Advertising Account

Client's Sales Down by Double Digits Last Quarter; Kirshenbaum Says It Will Not Defend Electronics Business

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Embattled electronics marketer Panasonic is reviewing U.S. ad duties on its estimated $40 million account, currently handled by Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners in New York, executives familiar with the matter said.

Kirshenbaum has been the lead U.S. agency for Panasonic since 2006, when it replaced WPP's Grey, New York, which had handled the business for more than two decades. A spokeswoman for Kirshenbaum said the agency doesn't plan to defend the account. Last week, Kirshenbaum snared the $50 million Vanguard account.

Executives familiar with the review said the process is just getting under way, with requests for proposals expected to be sent to a dozen or so agencies. Representatives for Panasonic did not respond to requests for comment.

Panasonic in 2007 had a domestic ad budget of about $60 million, but that fell to about $40 million in 2008 for the marketer's entire portfolio of cameras, home appliances and other electronics, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The ad agency review comes at a time of upheaval for the Japanese company, which, like many of its peers in the consumer electronics sector, has been battered by the recession.

In the last quarter, Panasonic saw sales of home appliances down 18% and sales of video and audio equipment down 21% compared to the same period last year.

As part of its last earnings announcement in late September, the company said it is in the midst of "drastic business structural reforms," which include revamping management and pursuing cost-cutting efforts, including what it called an "acceleration of procurement cost reduction." It's also busy trying to stage a takeover of rival Sanyo.