Mitsubishi eyes media shift to PHD

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In a bid to make its media buys more efficient, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. could combine its U.S. buying business with that of DaimlerChrysler at Omnicom Group's PHD North America. DaimlerChrysler owns a controlling stake in Mitsubishi.

Steve Torok, exec VP-international sales and marketing at Mitsubishi in Japan and co-chairman of its North American unit, sought to arrange a meeting last week with Chrysler Group's George Murphy, senior VP-global brand marketing, to discuss media consolidation.

The meeting didn't take place, but Mr. Torok told Advertising Age, "We are always looking for more combined activities. We are always looking where we can get efficiencies." He said that at this point the discussions are internal, and that any decisions would include Mr. Murphy and Finbarr O'Neill, his co-chairman at Mitsubishi Motors North America.

The move would add about $250 million in billings for PHD, which already handles $1.5 billion in DaimlerChrysler media. It would come at the expense of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles, which handles Mitsubishi media through a joint venture with Interpublic sibling Magna Global. PHD buys U.S. media for DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz USA, and Chrysler Group's Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep brands.

Mr. Murphy, Deutsch and PHD did not return calls by deadline.

Ian Beavis, senior VP-marketing at Mitsubishi Motors North America, said media consolidation "is not on the agenda" at this point, and declined to discuss the possibility of such a move.

no creative review

Separately, Mr. Beavis said he has been approached by at least a half-dozen agencies interested in Mitsubishi's creative account. Their interest, he said, has been sparked by a belief the account could go into review because of recent management changes and public statements by Mr. O'Neill about changes in ad direction. But Mr. Beavis said there is no review and that he forwards the agencies' credentials packages to Deutsch, which has handled the creative account since 1998.

Launch ads for Mitsubishi's next-generation Galant sedan arrive next week and will, among other things, tout the automaker's extended warranty. Mr. O'Neill announced the 10-year, 100,000-mile protection plan last week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It replaces a seven-year, 70,000-mile warranty. While at Hyundai, Mr. O'Neill introduced the same 10-year warranty, and helped spur a dramatic turnaround for that brand.

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