Toshiba America Information Systems' Computer Systems Division this week starts a review of its PR account, handled by Poppe Tyson Public Relations.
J. Rene Ward, senior director of sales and marketing communications, said Toshiba "very likely" will keep advertising at Poppe for at least the next six months.
But "one of the concerns that I have is, `Is this the right long-term partner for us?"' she said. "I think we're still evaluating that."
UPCOMING ADS CRUCIAL
Whether the account is at Poppe a year from now "depends on how we do" in delivering advertising for upcoming product launches and in getting the right balance of product and brand messages, Ms. Ward added.
Toshiba, the No. 1 notebook PC seller, moved into home PCs last year and has just entered the desktop PC market. Toshiba and Poppe now are working on ads for a critical notebook launch in June.
"I think they understand where we need to go," Ms. Ward said. "The question is whether they can do it on a consistent basis."
`NEWS' TO POPPE EXEC
Richard Lockman, Poppe's general manager in Los Angeles, said Ms. Ward's concerns about advertising were "news" to him.
Mr. Lockman said as far as he knows, "They are not evaluating us as a long-term partner. We've had a wonderful four-year relationship with them."
Mr. Lockman and Debbie Yount, the agency partner overseeing the Toshiba business, acknowledged problems with the PR account but said they don't affect advertising.
"The relationship is very strong at the senior level," Ms. Yount said, citing support from Ms. Ward, VP-General Manager Tom Scott and VP-Marketing Ron Smith. Messrs. Scott and Smith didn't return phone calls.
Ms. Ward's comments come as Toshiba and Poppe are rolling out a new brand and product campaign. Ms. Ward said Toshiba may need to move the balance more toward product, though she's generally pleased with the new ads.
"Right now, I'm happy with the work," Ms. Ward said.
PR ACCOUNT REVIEW
Ms. Ward, who joined Toshiba last summer after 19 years at IBM Corp., said Toshiba is reviewing PR because of "churn" in staffing at Poppe and service lapses.
Poppe will participate in the PR review. It took over PR in 1995, having won Toshiba's ad account in April 1993.
"I'm very confident that we will put together the team that is needed to win the business back," Ms. Yount said.
"The issue is whether or not you can stop . . . what's going on on the PR side so that it doesn't affect the ad side," Ms. Ward said.