Wieden May Be Feeling Pressure. But It Is Feeling Confident in Cars

David Kiley

Sure, Nike throwing some of its creative work open to other ad agencies is supposed to hot-foot Wieden & Kennedy into beefing up its digital capability. And that move was the scud that hit Madison Avenue (though Wieden's main office is in Portland, Ore). After all, the Wieden-Nike relationship is not only one of the most steady in the ad business, the work is held up by most of the advertisers I talk to as a standard they study.

Recently, Wieden was invited to pitch the Hyundai account. Indeed, with several other excellent shops pitching--Goodby Silverstein, Kirshenbaum Bond +Partners, Siltanen, Strawberry Frog and possibly Arnold--Wieden, which doesn't have a U.S. car account, was almost conspicuously absent. It has, in fact, been conspicuously absent in recent pitches for Audi and Volvo too.

The reason: Wieden handles Honda in the U.K. It does superb work there. And it won a deserved raft of awards for its work on introducing Honda's first-ever diesel engine to the U.K. in 2005.

Wieden, say people who have talked to agency chief Dan Wieden in recent months, is biding time in the hopes of landing Honda's U.S. business now handled by Rubin Postaer, Santa Monica. That's why it is staying clear of car pitches.

Rubin has had the Honda account since the early 1980s, I believe. That is a helluva long time in ad circles. Rubin did some great work for Honda in the 1990s. But the word is getting around that it has been an awfully long time since Honda and Rubin have made any advertising magic. Honda sales are okay. But some of its models posted disappointing sales; disappointing that is for Honda. The new Civic and Ridgeline come to mind.

The Honda client is as loyal to suppliers and partners as George Bush is to incompetent cabinet members. But with Rumsfeld out and Gonzalez teetering, could a Honda ad review be far behind? Dan Wieden seems to think so.