Nearly four years after American Honda Motor Co. yanked its media planning business from advertising agency RPA, the car company is shifting gears again by returning the coveted account to its longtime partner.
Late last week, Honda restored RPA, one of the largest ad shops in the Los Angeles region, as the agency of record for media planning and ad buying for its Honda and Acura brands.
RPA is one of the few major ad agencies that remains independent rather than being a division of a large ad holding company. The Santa Monica firm is expected to increase its staff by about 100 people to work on the Honda media planning account. RPA currently employs about 550 people and also handles ads for Southwest Airlines, the AM/PM convenience store chain, Farmer's Insurance and La-Z-Boy.
American Honda, based in Torrance, said RPA will replace the New York buying firm MediaVest in April. MediaVest had scooped up the Honda account in 2013 following a high-profile agency review, which dealt a heartbreaking loss to RPA. The Honda account covers about $600 million in annual ad spending.
A MediaVest spokesman declined to comment Monday.
RPA — which formed in 1986 as Rubin Postaer & Associates to handle Honda's advertising needs — has continuously held Honda's separate creative advertising account, designing and producing commercial spots and digital advertising for the Honda brand.
RPA is working on a Super Bowl spot for Honda's CR-V vehicle.
"In a media landscape that is increasingly content, social and data driven we made a decision to return to a more consolidated structure," Tom Peyton, Honda's vice president of national marketing operations, said in a statement announcing the switch. "We expect to realize even greater effectiveness with an agency placing content it creates."
Another agency, Mullen, will continue to create ads for the Acura car line. Boston-based MullenLowe landed the Acura creative account in 2013, and then opened an office in El Segundo.
"This move speaks to the shift toward agency rebundling, and RPA's ability as an independent, holistic agency to align strategy, creative, media and production (including digital) all under one roof," Bill Hagelstein, chief executive of RPA, said in a statement.
Honda's decision represents another big loss for MediaVest, which is part of the Paris-based advertising holding giant Publicis. Last year, the firm lost the Wal-Mart ad-buying account. MediaVest has picked up several smaller accounts, including media planning for USAA insurance company and Viacom Inc.'s MTV networks.