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$80-100 Mil. In Ford Accounts Loose

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Doner Quits Dealerships for Mazda; New England Already in Review

DETROIT: W.B. Doner & Co. has resigned its regional Ford dealership association ad accounts in order to concentrate exclusively on its newly won Mazda North American Operations business, putting a combined total of $80-100 million worth of business up for grabs.
"In order to serve Mazda [and its $240 million ad account], we made a business decision that we're going to use the resources that got us to this point to work on Mazda, which we think is critically important," said Alan Kalter, chief executive officer of Doner in Southfield, Mich. "We couldn't go out and re-create those resources and serve both. So we made the decision, a very difficult one, to resign all the Ford dealer business."
Ron Neale, Mazda's director of marketing, said he supported Doner's decision to focus exclusively on the Mazda account.
"I think just from a staffing standpoint, we're a bigger account, and they're going to need the staff that they have there to service this account, and add people," Neale said. Ford dealer associations currently handled by Doner include New England, the largest, billing about $25 million; Texas; Greater Michigan (the entire state with the exception of the Detroit area); Pittsburgh; Baltimore; and Washington, D.C.
New England dealers will begin an agency search this week, said association chairman Paul Bertoli. It was unclear if or when the other dealer associations would launch reviews.
J. Walter Thompson, Detroit, is a likely candidate in all six regions. In addition to being Ford's national agency, it handles 48 of the 63 Ford dealer associations, or about $350 million of the $500 million spent by Ford dealerships, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
"Given that W.B. Doner has resigned the Ford dealer business, we're prepared to make our qualifications known," said Peter Schweitzer, JWT's Detroit-based president of the Americas.
Doner was not pressured by officials at either Ford or Mazda--which Ford controls--to drop the creative and media planning/buying duties, Kalter said. Both car makers have been cooperative and will allow as much time as needed for the associations to choose Doner's successors, he said. Ford and Mazda dealers, however, were less likely to have tolerated the conflict.