Mitsubishi Begins Agency Visits

LOS ANGELES Chemistry checks begin today between Mitsubishi Motors North America and the agencies vying for creative chores on its $200 million ad account, according to sources.

First up for client executives today will be visits to Interpublic Group’s TM Advertising in Dallas and independent Cramer-Krasselt of Chicago, sources said.

Publicis Groupe’s Publicis in Seattle is scheduled for tomorrow, and both Publicis & Hal Riney and Omnicom Group’s BBDO are scheduled to receive the review committee on Thursday, sources said.

Though BBDO is pitching the account as a national network, the meeting will be held at BBDO’s Los Angeles office, close to the automaker’s Cypress, Calif., headquarters.

The creative incumbent, IPG’s Deutsch/LA in Marina del Rey, Calif., does not have to participate in this exercise, sources said.

Mitsubishi’s review team includes newly installed CEO Rich Gilligan and director of advertising Kevin Mayer; brand marketing director Bob Martin; representatives of the factory; and dealers council reps Chuck Barber and Ted Terp.

One source said a first-quarter marketing budget of over $50 million was approved in response to requests for higher spending in meetings last December. Only $30 million had been budgeted for the period, which precedes the launch of the Eclipse in June.

Unit sales in December were up 34 percent, according to Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif., after Mitsubishi’s free fall in October and November. But Todd Turner, an analyst with Car Concepts, attributed some of the numbers to the fulfillment of fleet vehicle contracts and said that Mitsubishi nonetheless lost market share in December, ending the year down 37 percent from 2003.