Nissan agency G1 shifts gears

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Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide is reshuffling the management of G1 Worldwide, its Tokyo-based joint venture with Hakuhodo.

Robert LePlae, G1's president-CEO, will move back to the United States this year. He is expected to take a top post at TBWA/Chiat/Day's Playa del Rey, Calif., office, picking up some duties now held by Tom Carroll, who was president of the shop before taking the title of president of the Americas. Mr. Carroll is eventually expected to relocate to New York in his broader role.

Gary Wenzel, who was senior VP-director of account planning at independent Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, has taken the position of president of G1, succeeding Mr. LePlae.

A TBWA/Chiat/Day spokesman said no announcements have been made about new titles at G1 or the agency.

The shift to G1 was a major opportunity for Mr. Wenzel, 50, to get international management experience, said Gerry Rubin, president-CEO of Rubin Postaer. He noted that both Mr. Wenzel and Mr. LePlae had worked at his agency, though neither had extensive automotive experience before picking up the TBWA Nissan assignments.

At Rubin Postaer, Mr. Wenzel will be succeeded by Tom Kirk, formerly senior VP, who was promoted to exec VP.

Mr. LePlae worked out of TBWA/Chiat/Day's Playa del Rey office as head of Nissan's U.S. account in the late '90s, when Nissan was on the verge of bankruptcy. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. President-CEO Carlos Ghosn called for a global agency, and G1 was created by TBWA and Hakuhodo, Nissan's two primary agencies, to handle the account in the U.S., Japan and Europe in 1999.

Since then, G1 has produced what is probably one of the few global branding efforts for an automobile. The concept of using a Nissan designer to discuss the philosophy and strategy around a car's design first broke in the United States, with Jerry Hirshberg, in April 1999. Following the ad discussing the design, individual cars were launched. Similar designer ads are running in Japan and Europe.

Nissan, meanwhile, has managed to improve profits and minimize its money-losing low-cost financing marketing tactics. Aside from the economy, the automaker must differentiate itself from Honda and Toyota. Nissan next year will move in that direction by launching its revival of the Z car. Nissan plans almost two dozen new models in the next few years.

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