The move follows this year's departure of five key staff people on the U.S. account plus the carmaker's shift from its longstanding "Oh what a feeling" ad tag.
Joe Cronin, who was out of the country last week, will continue his duties as worldwide account director on Toyota and its luxury Lexus brand, and remains vice chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide. But as of Nov. 1, he'll no longer hold the CEO title and duties at Saatchi & Saatchi Pacific, Torrance, Calif.
Mr. Cronin will have minimal involvement on Toyota Motor Sales USA's estimated $600 million account, which represents the biggest chunk of Saatchi's estimated $800 million in global Toyota billings, instead focusing on other countries.
PAST SAATCHI DEPARTURES
Saatchi departures on the Toyota account started in March with Ian Beavis, the longtime exec VP-group management director on Toyota's U.S. account who went to Ford Motor Co. Subsequently, three Saatchi account managers on Toyota in the Torrance office also left.
Most recently, Paul Silverman, formerly associate media director, left to become VP-general manager of TBS Media Management's Los Angeles office.
Toyota has verbalized its unhappiness over the staff exits on its U.S. account to top Saatchi management, said two executives close to the business.
Mr. Beavis still hasn't been replaced.
Mr. Cronin traveled frequently, so "Saatchi didn't have one person looking over the big [Toyota U.S.] picture. We didn't have an account director, which is one of the reasons things went awry," one executive said.
David Pelliccioni, corporate marketing manager at Toyota, denied there's any friction between the client and Saatchi over the agency staff exits.
"These people were in place a long time, and there's always a fundamental shift of people," he explained, adding, "We had Mr. Cronin stretched pretty thin and there's a lot of important things going on here."
'BEST CAR GUY'
Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, described Mr. Cronin as the "best car guy I've met." He said that over the past 13 years Mr. Cronin "has helped grow the Toyota business, expanding Saatchi & Saatchi's relationship from six to 27 countries."
This year, he added, Toyota gave Saatchi "important assignments" in Brazil, Taiwan, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay.
Mr. Cronin's responsibility shift was necessary, he said, because the executive was overworked and always traveling.
Mr. Roberts admitted the agency "had a very hard summer" moving from the "Oh what a feeling" tagline to the new "Toyota. Everyday."
"Everybody was under the pressure cooker," he said. "There are some scars," yet the "relationship is terribly strong."
Both Saatchi outposts in southern California have been struggling to expand their client base. Saatchi recently developed a branding campaign for itself, themed "Nothing is impossible," in an attempt to lure new business.
Scott Gilbert, CEO and co-chairman of Saatchi's Team One, El Segundo, Calif., succeeds Mr. Cronin as CEO in Torrance.
Mr. Gilbert worked at that office before starting Team One in 1987 to handle the launch of the luxury Lexus division.
Mr. Gilbert said he will reconfigure the management of Torrance after meetings with Toyota officials in Tokyo.
Mr. Gilbert's successor has signed a contract, Mr. Roberts said, but he identified the person only as a West Coast car ad person who has worked with Mr. Gilbert's Team One Co-Chairman Tom Cordner.