Toyota News Release Shakes Advertising World
Toyota Motor Sales USA's top gaijin, Jim Lentz, revealing the A-BAT concept car.
It seemed innocuous enough, the headline “TMC to Establish Two Marketing Companies” did not seem to portend eminent disaster or predict doom when the release was downloaded and casually reviewed late Wednesday morning. It was simple and straight forward.
The context of the release was: Toyota was changing its marketing organization with two new companies financed with over ¥200 million and staffed with 240+ employees.
But upon more careful reading it might be considered ominous and one thought resonated through the ad world: “OMG they’re going to replace their advertising agencies.”
Almost immediately emails, phone calls – some international, and Skype video links from friends and colleagues crisscrossed each other, all began with similar questions, “Do you know anything about what’s going on with Toyota’s marketing and advertising?” and/or “Have you sources at Toyota or the agency and what did they say?” My answers in order were, “No, yes and nothing.”
Yet, even as I moved to change the responses to “Yes-maybe, yes and lots” news flashes from Advertising Age, Automotive News and several advertising industry web sites, chat rooms and bloggers were arriving on the web in torrents.
Several jumped to the conclusion that Saatchi, Toyota’s major agency and part of the Publicis Groupe (and the agency’s second biggest account with $800 million plus after P&G) was going to lose the business. Ad Age was more circumspect and less concerned quoting Toyota representatives who conceded the news release “Is causing a great deal of confusion.”
So here’s the bottom line based on information I have received from company sources and those very close to the announcement and the following, a translation originally composed in Japanese, of an internal clarification memorandum:
“The main purpose of the two marketing companies is enhancing marketing efforts in Japan; not keeping Toyota’s advertising efforts in-house. Even in line with the purpose, Toyota does not assume cutting the existing business ties with ad agencies.”