In Strategy Shift, Acura Dealers Turn to Their Own Shop

Honda Brand Tears Page Out of Toyota's Regional Advertising Playbook

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Northern California Acura dealers today named their own agency to handle regional advertising, including media.

The association named Baker Street Partners, San Francisco, as agency for its regional account following a review. Although billings for the business are small, about $10 million, it's a notable change in strategy for parent American Honda Motor Co. in its battle with archrival Toyota.

Toyota's strategy
Toyota long has used a national shop for the bulk of its advertising, currently Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif., and allowed regional dealer groups to battle it out at the local level. Honda, meanwhile, in 1994 eliminated its regional-dealer associations and consolidated local ad efforts at its national shop, RPA, Santa Monica, Calif. However, last year, Honda switched strategies, allowing regional groups to form so they can offer a more tactical local advertising program.

RPA participated in the regional pitch, but defended only the media portion of the account, an RPA spokeswoman said.

In addition to the Northern California Acura group, four additional dealers groups are forming around the West. Those groups are in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Southwest (including Arizona and Texas) and Nevada.

Ad spending
Overall, Acura's dealer accounts throughout the nation are estimated, in total, to represent about $200 million in billings. Regional business for Honda dealers is about $250 million nationally. Honda spent $1.3 billion on marketing in the U.S., according to Advertising Age's Data Center. Toyota spent $1.9 billion.

New work for the Northern California dealers will break in February. Baker Street was formed last year by the merger of Pickett Advertising and Baker Street Solutions, a consumer research consultancy. The agency's other clients include the Northern California Honda Dealers.