ACURA REVIEW SHOWS YEARNING FOR FRESH START;RUBIN POSTAER, ROGGE EFFLER HEAD STRONG FIELD TO BOOST SAGGING SEGMENT

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In reviewing its $120 million Acura account, American Honda Motor Co. would rather hire a creative agency without car experience than a shop dropped by another auto marketer.

"If they got fired, why do you want somebody else's problem?" said Eric Conn, American Honda senior manager of automotive advertising. "We maybe can teach you the car business. We can't teach you the ad business."

ENTIRE OPERATION LOOKED AT

Acura, coming out of a sales slump and in the midst of an evaluation of every aspect of the luxury division, launched the review last week (AA, May 13).

Incumbent Ketchum Advertising, Los Angeles, is competing, and consultant Herb Zeltner is managing the review. Acura plans to pick three finalists by midsummer; the winner by late summer.

American Honda last week began sending questionnaires to a list of agencies that have two weeks to reply. Mr. Conn said he will listen to queries from other agencies, but "if we overlooked them there's probably a good reason."

Industry watchers said Honda division agency Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., and Rogge Effler & Partners, Los Angeles, have a good shot.

Dentsu-owned Rogge, formerly Lord, Dentsu & Partners, handled Mazda Motor of America's aborted Amati luxury division and has made several recent key appointments.

Paul Katzka, consultant on an Acura project at Dentsu in Los Angeles, has moved to Rogge Effler as exec VP-partner; Jim Helberg, media director on Mazda at Foote, Cone & Belding, Santa Ana, Calif., joined as executive media director.

Other agencies seen as strong candidates include Deutsch, New York and Santa Monica, Calif.; Martin/Williams, Minneapolis; and Richards Group, Dallas.

Despite Mr. Conn's concerns about taking on a former car agency, several ex-car shops are possibilities: Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, which launched Nissan Motor Corp. USA's Infiniti; Mullen Advertising, Wenham, Mass., BMW's former agency; and Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., which handled Subaru of America.

SEVERAL SHOPS WON'T PITCH

Several agencies, described as contenders by outsiders, said they won't pursue the account, including DDB Needham Worldwide; Dailey & Associates, Los Angeles; GSD&M, Austin, Texas; Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco; and Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York.

"If anybody has the inside track, it's obviously Ketchum," Mr. Conn said. "They have a new pool of resources"-a reference to Omnicom, whose deal to buy Ketchum remains on track to close at the end of May.

But executives at rival car agencies said odds are against Ketchum because Acura wants a new start.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo, Mark Gleason and Pat Sloan.

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