Cimarron Spin-off Scores Toyota Card Biz

LOS ANGELES Toyota Financial Services confirmed that it has officially signed new agency Traffic to handle the Toyota credit card project, launching in October. “They will play a key role over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Mike Wells, client vp, product, marketing and brand. “Their first effort will be with dealer brand activation.”

Wells said most of the effort would be run through the dealer channel. Toyota has already issued a Lexus Pursuits Visa but that card differs in that it doesn’t have the instant credit for sales and service feature. The Lexus Pursuits project was handled internally, rather than through the Lexus agency Publicis Groupe’s Team One, El Segundo, Calif.

Scope of the work was yet largely undetermined, Wells said, and would include Internet advertising, though he added that TFS would be concentrating on “building the brand from the inside out.”

Traffic, a spin-off from the Cimarron Group, is headed by Tom Cordner, former Team One creative chief and worldwide cd on Ford at JWT, Detroit, and John Powers, former management director of the Lexus dealers association at Team One. (Powers serves as president and Cordner is co-chairman with Cimarron CEO Bob Farina.)

Toyota had also contacted independent Ignited in El Segundo, Calif., and Toyota’s lead shop, Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi in Torrance, Calif., to pitch the business, per sources.

TFS plans to issue a card that would pay reward points toward service at Toyota dealerships.

Cimarron, one of the three agencies handling the major motion picture studios’ advertising, had been looking to expand beyond film promotions for years.

Cimarron hired ex-TBWA\Chiat\Day creative director Nigel Williams as ecd in 2004, leading to several wins outside the movie business, including Lotus automotive.

When Williams left for Guthy Renker last August, Cimarron attempted a similar expansion beyond the movie business via a partnership with Siltanen & Partners. According to sources, the negotiations broke down near the completion of an agreement.

This story updates an earlier item with client confirmation.