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Zator Makes Leap to Autobytel

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Shuts Consultancy to Head Marketing at Web Car-Buying Service
LOS ANGELES--Monte Zator has closed the doors on his consultancy to take a ride with online auto retailer Autobytel.com. Zator, who left TBWA\Chiat\Day in April 1999 to form Zator & Co., joined Autobytel as vice president of marketing after consulting for the company for several months.
"I ended up really liking it here, so we made it a permanent deal," said Zator, 44. "This is really the best of both worlds. I get to focus on marketing and help lead one of the [top] automotive e-commerce companies in the U.S. today."
Zator said the Irvine, Calif., company's relationship with agency of record Grey Advertising, New York, will remain unchanged. Media is handled by Grey's unbundled media operation, MediaCom. Autobytel spends an estimated $25-30 million annually on paid advertising.
The online car-buying category faces challenges from automakers intent on protecting their business. By focusing on Autobytel's brand positioning, Zator hopes to generate more leads for dealers and improve consumers' online experience.
"It's a very busy category," said a source. "Factories are setting up their own Web sites, and dealers have more direct access to customers ... who don't want to go through a third party."
Tom Cordner, co-chairman and creative director at Lexus agency Team One Advertising, El Segundo, Calif., agreed, saying automotive manufacturers are looking seriously at the Web to compete.
"All the manufacturers are saying, 'We either figure out how to do this or we're going to lose business.' Dealers are saying, 'We have to find a way to counter this,' " Cordner said.
Zator brings an automotive-heavy rƒsumƒ to Autobytel. He worked on Nissan in his seven years at TBWA\C\D and on Toyota at Saatchi & Saatchi, where he worked for 12 years. In 1996, Zator co-founded TBWA\C\D's retail spinoff The Persuasion Group with fellow agency executives Tom Patty, Kim Haskell and Tony Stern. Persuasion handled Bridgestone Tires and the Nissan/Infiniti regional dealer business, among other accounts. K