September 21, 2023

Digital Marketing Education

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Mazda looks beyond WPP in marketing shift

Bespoke agencies ‘not for everybody’

Those bespoke shops were predecessors for what would later become a wave of client-dedicated agencies created by multiple holding companies looking to solve all client needs in a single holding company model. They are still prevalent, including at WPP, which in 2021 won Coca-Cola’s massive agency review by assembling a Coke-dedicated unit called Open X that houses multiple functions. (Coke still retains a roster of outside creative shops for some work.)

Rogers in an interview said that such bespoke agency creations are “not for everybody.”

“The reality is clients have come to the realization that not one company has all the talent, and especially specialized talent, in the world,” he added. Mazda, he said, “needs to go and grow, and they need to get the talent they need to perform anywhere they can get it.”

Optimal’s specialty is performance marketing, although it has expanded its capabilities with recent acquisitions. Formerly known as Optimad Media, it relaunched as Optimal in late 2022 after acquiring Effective Spend, an Austin, Texas-based firm specializing in paid search, social media advertising, search engine optimization and retail media. Optimal also owns DSPolitical, a political and public affairs digital advertising firm that has worked with Democratic and progressive candidates, according to its website.

Audet said Optimal provides a “unique combination of performance marketing, but also being able to deliver on a desirable brand experience at the same time.”

Premium position

Mazda’s U.S. sales fell 11% to 294,908 vehicles in 2022, with its market share falling to 2.1% from 2.2% the year before, according to Automotive News. But Mazda’s sales jumped 28.7% in the first six months of 2023 compared with the same period last year, and its market share increased to 2.4%, according to Automotive News data.

The automaker has focused on carving out a more premium positioning in recent years. In 2018 it launched a new tagline, “Feel Alive,” meant to lure customers who are “creative, ambitious and imaginative,” according to a press release at the time. Recent advertising has not included that tagline. Audet said Mazda is working on a new brand platform, although he did not disclose details.

Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds, which provides car shopping information to consumers, said there are “risks associated with Mazda setting its sights on establishing itself as more of a premium brand.” 

“The buyer pool has not grown proportionately with the number of brands who have tried to move upmarket, and as pricier vehicles dominate the new market, buyers with less to spend are naturally being pushed into the used market,” she added. Mazda, she said, “has always tried to distinguish itself from its Japanese counterparts by touting itself as the brand for people who enjoy driving.”

For years that approach was embodied in the “Zoom Zoom” tagline. Asked if Mazda would ever bring that tagline back, Audet said, “We very much believe in the joy of driving and what ‘Zoom Zoom’ embodied in its intention—and I’m sure that wherever we go in the future, there’ll be a strong linkage to that.” But, he added, “I doubt we’ll bring it back as ‘Zoom Zoom.’”


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