For the second time in the past year, the Japanese car maker Daihatsu has fired a Los Angeles ad agency and put its $10-million advertising business up for grabs.
On Wednesday, the U.S. importer of low-priced, compact cars fired the ad agency Admarketing, which had handled the account for less than six months. Earlier this year, the car maker fired the ad firm Abert Newhoff & Burr, which had handled the business for about a year and which created the ad slogan: “You’ll think the world of Daihatsu.”
So far, however, American car buyers haven’t flocked to buy the car. Although Daihatsu ranks as the ninth-largest car maker in Japan, it sold just 2,587 of its three-door Charade models in the United States during the first quarter, according to the trade magazine Automotive Age. The cars are priced at $6,400 to $9,200.
Daihatsu America officials in Los Alamitos did not respond to telephone calls.
Some ad agency executives say Daihatsu is a difficult client. “We’ve yet to do a real campaign for them,” said Jack Roth, president of Admarketing. “We’ve had $5,000-a-week advertisers who plan farther in advance than these guys. I’m not even sure why they hired us in the first place.”
But Admarketing, which ranks as the second-largest ad agency in Los Angeles with annual billings of $200 million, will not lay off any workers as a result of the lost business, Roth said.
Daihatsu’s latest move is certain to unleash a flurry of inquires by local ad agencies. Ad executives generally view automobile accounts as among the most desirable--if not lucrative--in the business. And it is rare that an automobile account of any size becomes available in the Los Angeles market.
What’s more, some hopeful ad executives have generally viewed Daihatsu as an automobile advertiser that might some day rival Honda’s rapid growth of the 1970s. Some even suggest that Daihatsu’s billings could increase eight-fold to more than $80 million before 1990.
“An auto account, especially on the West Coast, seems to be the fulfillment of a dream for any ad agency,” said Tom Burr, chairman of Abert, Newhoff & Burr, which formerly handled the business. “So, when we lost the account, we felt several emotions at once. It was devastating emotionally, but handling the business had been such a purgatory for months that it was also a relief to lose it.”