Siltanen & Partners bested Suzuki's agency of record, Dentsu Next, Brea, Calif., and "a couple of other" unnamed agencies that were invited to pitch about a month ago, a Suzuki spokesman said.
New pickup rolls out
The projects are for this September's launch of Suzuki's first pickup truck, the 2009 Equator, and the freshened 2009 Grand Vitara sport utility vehicle later in the fall.
"We wanted to try something fresh and give somebody else a shot" at the business, the spokesman said.
Gene Brown, the VP-marketing at Suzuki who led the search, was unavailable for comment, but earlier this year he told Advertising Age that "Suzuki is on the move." He said the Equator launch would not be a major national blitz, because Suzuki expects to sell only between 10,000 and 12,000 of the pickups annually. But he said the Equator will serve an unmet need for owners of Suzuki's motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. "We are a niche brand."
Suzuki spent $117 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. An executive close to the matter said there was no pitch; Suzuki informed insiders and outlined the work to Siltanen last week.
The agency was formed in 1999 by Rob Siltanen, a former creative director on Nissan and Infiniti at TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey. It handled a major national project for Hyundai Motor America in early 2007. Neither Mr. Siltanen nor agency President Tim Murphy returned calls for comment.
Mr. Brown knew Mr. Siltanen from his two-plus-year stint in marketing at Nissan, the executive said.
Looking like a third wheel
The move doesn't body well for Dentsu, which handles Suzuki in Japan and acquired Colby & Partners more than a decade ago. Colby had handled Suzuki. Dentsu's Brea office works very closely with Suzuki, acting almost as part of its marketing department.
Dentsu Next lost the exec VP-general manager of its Brea office this month when Dave Weber joined RPA, Santa Monica, on its new Acura-dedicated team working on its American Honda Motor Co. account.
Rick Suzuki, chairman of American Suzuki since 1998 and grandson of the company's founder, informed his staff a month ago he was stepping down "to bear responsibility" for the automaker's poor U.S. sales and earnings, including operating losses in 2007, Automotive News reported.