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Asatsu Maneuvers For Mitsubishi's Canadian Account

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Mitsubishi Motor is planning a review to select its first agency in Canada as the relationship between the car maker and its U.S. shop, G2, continues to weaken, sources said.
The pending search in Canada has prompted Asatsu/BBDO, the Japanese agency which handles Mitsubishi in most regions except North America, to team up with another Omnicom Group-aligned shop to pitch the projected $15-20 million account, said sources.
Asatsu has formed an alliance called "Team Diamond" with Griffin Bacal Volny in Toronto, a $25 million shop led by car veteran Peter Volny, to pursue the Canadian account, said sources. (The alliance is named for the three diamonds in the Mitsubishi logo.) Team Diamond will likely compete with at least six shops for Mitsubishi's ad account in Canada, said sources. Asatsu and Griffin Bacal Volny executives declined comment last week.
MMSA Distribution Services Canada was established last fall in Toronto to lead the car maker's entry into the Canadian market in late 1998. Alain Caron, general manager of MMSA, could not be reached for comment. MMSA representative Sandra Low said the company had hired a new marketing director, whom she declined to name, who will start this week.
Griffin Bacal Volny was not the first Omnicom shop approached by Asatsu about its Team Diamond concept. The Japanese agency first discussed the possibility of a joint pitch with DDB Group Canada in Toronto earlier this year, said sources, before DDB dropped out over concerns about alienating its global Volkswagen client.
Separately, sources said Asatsu has been quietly talking with several U.S. shops about jointly pursuing the estimated $100 million account of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America in Cypress, Calif., currently handled by Grey Advertising's G2 unit in Huntington Beach, Calif. Omnicom's Merkley Newman Harty has worked with Asatsu in the past. Mitsubishi executives said they were "not aware of any agency changes in the U.S." --with Angela Dawson and Hank Kim