Ground Zero Enters Honda Finals

LOS ANGELES Ground Zero here has replaced Open Minds in the Southern California Honda Dealers Association creative and media review, per sources.

Open Minds, Irvine, Calif., a subsidiary of Honda’s lead agency, independent RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., had been one of four California shops that initially advanced into the finals. The others are: independent Cimarron Group, Hollywood; Secret Weapon Marketing, Santa Monica; and Siltanen & Partners, Marina del Rey.

The shops declined comment.

Final presentations are scheduled for September, according to sources.

There is no incumbent agency because American Honda Motors, Torrance, Calif., banned dealer body advertising in 1994 in an effort to better manage the image of the brand [Adweek, May 15].

The value of the business has been estimated by sources at between $25 million and $50 million. Chevrolet dealers spend $20 million and the Toyota Dealers Association spends $65 million annually in Southern California alone. Sources said the Honda dealers’ annual spend would likely fall somewhere in between those two figures.

Steve Jaros, Honda’s senior manager of marketing, and consultant Lane Bensko are running the review. A concurrent review is under way by the Northern California Honda dealers, according to sources.

AHM spent $750 million advertising in 2005 and $300 million through May 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Sources said funding for the new agency effort would come from the dealers themselves, and not be drawn from independent RPA’s budget for national tier-two advertising.