Malone’s Retail Bent Wins Isuzu

Malone Advertising picked up Isuzu’s $15 million account thanks to long memories and short budgets at the automaker.

The Akron, Ohio-based retail-spe cialty agency, which claims $8.5 million in annual revenue, last week replaced Goodby, Sil verstein & Partners on the business without a review. Malone had worked with Isuzu for six months in 1991 as a transition agency between Della Femina McNamee and Goodby.

As the automaker sought solutions for slumping sales this summer, Malone’s work was recalled by executives who dealt with the shop 11 years ago, including Terry Maloney, now president of Isuzu Motors America, the auto’s importer, according to agency president Fred Bidwell and an Isuzu representative.

“They called us,” Bidwell said. “It’s a refreshing experience.”

Isuzu initially wanted to discuss retail strategies and didn’t plan to replace Goodby, Isuzu representative Chip Lezgus said. However, after presentations from Malone, the decision was made to go to a straight retail approach.

With that, Goodby and Isuzu agreed to split, Malone was hired and work has commenced on a value-centric retail campaign set to debut early next year.

Isuzu, which produces four SUV models, has slashed both production and its ad budget. Ad spending has dropped precipitously, from $140 million in 1998 to under $20 million through July of this year. The cuts made image advertising of the sort Goodby was doing impractical, Bidwell said.

“The strategy is to bring it back to the basics, let people know the value that’s there,” Bidwell said. “We don’t have the budget to create an emotional bond” through advertising.

Bidwell plans to lead the account himself, along with associate vice president Chris Ebner. Associate creative directors Greg Bukosky and Frank Whanger will lead creative chores.

Isuzu will challenge Kimberly-Clark as the 95-person agency’s largest client, Bidwell said. Malone also works for Goodyear’s nontire brands and Pharmacia. The agency last week lost its estimated $18 million Meineke Discount Muffler Shops account following a review.

Bidwell became majority owner in 1997, buying out founder Bain Malone, who remains chairman of the agency.