DEUTSCH DOMINATES MITSUBISHI RACE BATTLE WITH GREY/ZIMMERMAN FOR DEALER ACCOUNTS IS LOPSIDED

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The competition between Deutsch and Grey/ Zimmerman for Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America's regional dealer accounts hasn't been much of a contest so far.

Deutsch has won 25 dealer accounts to date worth $40 million, while the joint venture between Grey Advertising and Zimmerman & Partners has captured just three. There are 40 dealer accounts overall, worth a combined $65 million to $80 million.

Final pitches on the remaining dealer accounts are this week.

Grey/Zimmerman in the last two weeks scored its first regional wins, picking up dealer groups in Atlanta, Dallas and Houston, with total billings of about $8 million.

Before the reviews began, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Zimmerman was the incumbent on nine dealer accounts, including Dallas and Houston. It lost New York and San Francisco to Deutsch, New York and Santa Monica, Calif. Deutsch also won Los Angeles, which had been handled by Grey, Los Angeles.

OFF TO SLOW START

Deutsch's momentum may be due in part to a slow start by the Grey/Zimmerman venture. Grey and Zimmerman separately pitched several key dealer groups, including those in New York and Los Angeles. Zimmerman President-CEO Jordan Zimmerman admitted it took the partners "a little while to get it together."

Michael Cohen, a New York dealer, said most dealers in his group liked Deutsch's creative. But since Zimmerman pitched that account without Grey, he said dealers didn't understand how the Grey/Zimmerman partnership would work.

After the losses started mounting, Grey and Zimmerman formed an eight-member team that started making joint pitches two weeks ago.

Although Houston dealers gave the nod to Grey/Zimmerman, Houston Mitsu-bishi dealer Ramsay Gillman said Deutsch's wins "are going to give Zimmerman a little wake-up call."

Mr. Gillman, outgoing president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, believes Deutsch's "ultimate goal is to get the national account." That $160 million account is handled by Grey's G2 unit in Huntington Beach, Calif. Mr. Gillman said dealers are complaining that national ads by G2 haven't built a strong image for the brand.

Peter Drakoulias, partner and exec VP-business development director at Deutsch, denied the agency has its sights on the national account. "We got into this for the $60 million in [dealer] association business. That's what the task at hand is and continues to be," he said.

UNABLE TO CHOOSE

The contest between Deutsch and Grey/Zimmerman began after a Mitsubishi review panel charged with consolidating dealer accounts wasn't able to choose between the shops.

Pierre Gagnon, the exec VP who became Mitsubishi's new top U.S. executive in December, originally wanted the six dealers and six Mitsubishi executives on the review panel to reach a unanimous decision on a single agency. Each member was given three flags-green for agreement, red for disagreement and yellow for "on the fence."

Deutsch is said to have been favored by a majority, but two dealers raised red flags. The panel eventually made a unanimous decision to let the two agencies duke it out.

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