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Nissan Audits Its Media Outlay

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LOS ANGELES Nissan North America will audit its $800 million-plus annual media account, said Steve Wilhite, vice president of marketing at the automaker.

Omnicom's OMD, Playa del Rey, Calif., handles media buying for the Gardena, Calif.-based client. Wilhite confirmed that a search for a company to conduct the audit is under way through independent media consultant Matt Bryant and that several auditing firms have been contacted. He declined to name them.

Wilhite said he expects the auditing firm to be selected in the next two weeks, and an evaluation to be completed within 60 days after that.

Wilhite said the audit does not reflect disenchantment with either the creative agency, Omnicom's TBWA\Chiat\Day or with OMD, which he characterized as a "brilliant partner who has done a terrific job."

Page Thompson, CEO of OMD North America, New York, said the agency is "comfortable with both the audit and the prices OMD negotiated."

"We've got very aggressive business goals in line with the Nissan Revival Plan," Wilhite said. "We're looking at everything from production costs and agency fees to where we print materials to achieve greater shareholder value. Television is historically important and the lion's share of the budget. So this is an effort to fine-tune our media message."

Wilhite said Nissan will not necessarily spend less total dollars advertising, but foresees "a reallocation of resources, based on the efficiency and effectiveness of the medium."

"Our auditing is rigorous and annual," Wilhite said. "This audit is not extraordinary." Wilhite said he would regard as a satisfactory outcome "a confirmation that our advertising is reaching the people we are told we are reaching, at the agreed upon rate, and input on how we might want to adjust our investments to increase our effectiveness."

Wilhite declined to specify Nissan's marketing budget. The company spent $750 million advertising Nissan and Infiniti vehicles in 2002, and had spent more than $800 million by October 2003, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

—with David Kaplan