We Hear: Mitsubishi in Talks with TBWA\Chiat\Day and Other Agencies After Dropping 180LA

By Patrick Coffee 

TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles is in the market for a new car, and it might just be a Mitsubishi.

Earlier this year, Nissan surprised quite a few in the agency world by splitting with the Omnicom shop’s West Coast network after more than 30 years. Just over three months later, Mitsubishi—in which the company acquired a 34% stake in late 2016—also dropped 180LA as its creative agency of record.

Now we hear that TBWA hopes to make up for that loss by picking up the smaller account. According to Kantar Media, Mitsubishi spent $95 million on U.S. marketing last year.

The Nissan work didn’t leave Omnicom, it simply moved from TBWA L.A. to Zimmerman (broadcast) and the former agency’s New York team (social and digital). And since Nissan now owns part of Mitsubishi, its leadership is very familiar with the Omnicom roster. Like Pepsi, it seems that they’d prefer to keep things within the family.

On that point, one source very close to the matter tells us that TBWA’s West Coast executives recently had a meeting or meetings with Francine Harsini, senior director of marketing at Mitsubishi North America. This would not be the first time Harsini has come into contact with TBWA: she formerly served as managing supervisor there before moving in-house with DirecTV and eventually going to the Japan-based car company.

It’s not yet clear whether the two parties will work together. According to our source, Mitsubishi is notoriously hard on its agencies, and several people who worked on the account in the past told us that the client had been sending project work to independent L.A. shop Omelet and using that organization’s lower rates as leverage against 180LA.

Another party tells us that the meetings were part of a formal review involving TBWA, Omelet and other unnamed agencies.

A TBWA spokesperson deferred to the client, whose PR department has not responded to any of our calls or emails about the recent changes in its agency lineup. Omelet also declined to comment on the earlier story about its relationship with Mitsubishi.

More news to come on this account.