Siltanen Snatches $100 Million Suzuki Auto Account

Indie Agency Replaces Dentsu Next After Being Hired for Pair of Projects

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- American Suzuki Corp. has handed its $100 million-plus auto account to independent Siltanen & Partners Advertising, Marina del Rey, Calif., just three months after bringing on the shop to handle two projects.

The automaker said incumbent Dentsu Next, Brea, Calif., will keep its motorcycle and ATV account. Dentsu, previously Colby & Partners, had held the auto account since 2000.

"Siltanen's broad automotive experience, combined with its strategic insights and targeted approach, will further bolster our marketing activities, and we look forward to immediately tapping into Siltanen's resources and its seasoned senior leadership team," said Gene Brown, VP-auto marketing and public relations at Suzuki. While he praised "a lot of great work" from Dentsu Next, Mr. Brown said the time was right to change ad partners and build on the incumbent shop's past successes.

Suzuki consolidation
Suzuki also announced that Kinji Saito is the new president, overseeing all newly consolidated U.S. operations. He had been deputy executive general manager-global marketing at Suzuki Motor Corp. in Japan. His predecessor, Rick Suzuki, who had been chairman of American Suzuki, becomes a board adviser. Each of the presidents -- Mark Harano, of the automotive arm; Masaaki Kato, of the motorcycles, ATV and marine unit; and Motoo Murakami, of corporate operations -- become exec VPs of the consolidated company and will continue to oversee their respective operations in the U.S.

Suzuki said its U.S. auto sales slid 2.2% in the first half of the year to 56,248 vehicles compared with the first half of 2007. Mr. Suzuki, chairman of American Suzuki since 1998 and grandson of the company's founder, said earlier this year he was stepping down "to bear responsibility" for the poor U.S. sales and earnings, including operating losses in 2007, according to Ad Age sibling Automotive News.

Suzuki spent nearly $30 million in measured media in the first quarter of 2008, mostly on autos, and $118 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Siltanen's origins
Rob Siltanen, a former creative director on Nissan and Infiniti at TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., founded his agency in 1999 and is chairman and co-creative director. Mr. Brown knew Mr. Siltanen from his two-plus-year stint in marketing at Nissan.

The agency will handle strategy and creative for Suzuki, along with a wide range of marketing efforts including aspects of nontraditional advertising, national event campaigns and promotions.

As Advertising Age reported three months ago, Suzuki's hiring of Siltanen for project work did not bode well for Dentsu, which also handles Suzuki in Japan. Dentsu Next lost the exec VP-general manager of its Brea office in April when Dave Weber joined RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., on its new Acura-dedicated team working on the American Honda Motor Co. account.