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(June 20, 2001) -- Toyota Motor Sales USA's Toyota Division is in the early stages of a review for its first African-American ad agency.

The request for proposals will be sent out shortly, said Steve Sturm, VP-marketing at the automaker. He declined to discuss possible contenders but said there are roughly 20 agencies that don't have car account conflicts. He said he hoped for a "near-term" decision, maybe by late summer.

Last month, Toyota told it was working with its ad agency, Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, Torrance, Calif., to study whether to hire an African-American agency. Saatchi currently does both Hispanic and African-American Toyota ads, although the Hispanic account has a dedicated team.

The upcoming review follows last month's uproar that started when the Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized Toyota for a promotional postcard done by Saatchi, which he dubbed "offensive." He also called for the firing of Saatchi at a meeting in late May with Toyota executives and the two sides vowed to meet again in a month. -- Jean Halliday

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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