The Player: Mitsubishi's Beavis comes in as automaker's change agent

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Ian Beavis is back behind the wheel again, this time at troubled Mitsubishi Motors North America as senior VP-marketing. The 50-year-old car-marketing veteran returns to the auto industry after several years on the agency side.

The Australian native arrived at Mitsubishi in late November in a new post that includes advertising, marketing, incentives, product strategy and public relations.

"I'd much rather come into a situation that needs to improve," Mr. Beavis said. "The attraction of this job is Mitsubishi is becoming a different organization and wants to change, so it's an environment where you can get a lot of things done."

The marketer has a challenging climb. Mitsubishi's TV spots from Interpublic's Deutsch, Los Angeles, have used cool music tracks with young people in the vehicles and little voice-over. The executions have attracted criticism, even from dealers who said the spots don't reveal enough about the cars and trucks. The carmaker has seen sales slide by 30% in recent months after it stopped financing loans to consumers with less-than-stellar credit and cut heavy fleet sales. In September, new U.S. management was installed.

Finbarr O'Neill, the new co-chairman-CEO of Mitsubishi, noted Mr. Beavis' "expansive" automotive knowledge as both corporate marketer and agency leader. "He's recognized among his peers as being a creative change agent," said Mr. O'Neill. "Ian's fresh and innovative perspective will be critical as we expand the Mitsubishi product line, reach out to a wider range of customers and create a brand with added depth and value."

Mr. Beavis plans to devise a strategy to increase demand. "We have very high [brand] awareness. But what we haven't done is explain what a Mitsubishi is." He wants to give people reasons to buy Mitsubishi and be proud to own one. Mr. Beavis will keep the brand's six-year-old positioning "spirited cars for spirited people," but plans to target messages to a broader audience. "In the past, the positioning was used as a demographic" to target young people.

marching orders

Mr. Beavis has already met with the agency. "Deutsch is going to get different marching orders," he said. "Agencies are as good as the direction from their clients." So far, Deutsch has "stepped up to the plate." He first wants to get his staff and strategy in order because "brand management lies with the client."

After resigning in March as president-CEO of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, San Francisco, Mr. Beavis opened his own agency, The Shop. But he sold his share in the advertising and public relations agency to his two partners when he decided to take the new job. Mr. Beavis' extensive auto experience includes an 11-year stint at Ford Motor Co. in Australia, where he rose to advertising manager before leaving in 1982. He then ran Toyota Motor Corp.'s business in Australia, Canada and the U.S. at Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi and had a two-year stint heading Lincoln Mercury advertising at Ford Motor Co. that ended in 1999 following the successful launch of Lincoln's LS sedan. He then joined Bozell, Southfield, Mich. as global account director on Chrysler Group.

Fast Facts

Name: Ian Beavis

Age: 50

Title: Senior VP-marketing, Mitsubishi Motors North America

Challenge: Clearly define the brand to increase buyer consideration.

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