2 Remain in Regional Honda Contest

LOS ANGELES Following presentations by four independent shops last Friday, Northern California Honda dealers have trimmed the field in their estimated $10 million creative and media review, per Denny Boyle, a Honda dealer overseeing the contest.

Remaining in contention, with a decision expected Thursday, are Pickett Advertising and Swirl Inc., both in San Francisco. Swirl was a late addition to the review. It replaced Maiden Lane here, which dropped out due to pitch conflicts, according to the agency.

J. Stokes & Associates and Open Minds, the Irvine, Calif., subsidiary of Honda’s independent lead shop RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., were cut from contention, Boyle said. “Open Minds made a great presentation, but we’re seeking a certain comfort level in the dealers,” he said. “Some dealers really want a local agency that knows the region.”

Boyle said that Open Minds simply couldn’t overcome the handicap of being located in the Los Angeles area—and the agency’s car experience wasn’t enough of a mitigating factor.

“From the beginning we’ve said, let’s look beyond automotive experience for a fresh approach,” Boyle said. “That experience wasn’t the premium.”

The 10 board members and one alternate who heard the presentations Friday considered Swirl and Pickett “very close,” Boyle said. Those board members are now simultaneously evaluating the presentations and doing reference checks on both agencies, he said.

Boyle said the Northern California dealers expect a decision after a board meeting on Thursday.

Yesterday, Secret Weapon Marketing in Santa Monica, Calif., won the review for the Southern California Honda Dealer Association’s creative and media account, which could be worth as much as $50 million [Adweek Online, Sept. 18].

Hiring local shops represents a dramatic turn in what had been a 12-year ban on dealer advertising instituted by American Honda Motors in Torrance, Calif., as a way of controlling the brand’s image.