CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/PAUL TUNNICLIFFE - The marketing head behind Daihatsu's new image. Tunnicliffe wants Daihatsu to emulate Skoda's recent success, Ian Darby writes

Last year's client success story was Chris Hawken, the marketing

director of Skoda. Hawken led the efforts as the once-ridiculed car

company turned around its fortunes with some great marketing activity

spearheaded by creative work from Fallon. This year, Daihatsu's

marketing director, Paul Tunnicliffe, hopes to achieve similar success

for the Japanese car marque.



Campaign reported last week that Daihatsu is to review its pounds 4

million advertising account, held by the Birmingham-based agency Wallis

Tomlinson.



The agency said that it resigned the business after "differences over

strategy".



Tunnicliffe has shortlisted Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, Walsh Trott

Chick Smith, McCann-Erickson Central and Edge. A decision is expected by

September. Media, held by Feather Brooksbank, is not being reviewed.



Tunnicliffe is in his second stint as Daihatsu's marketing director.



He left six years ago to work on the agency side, ending up as the

account director on Ford at the event and design company

Imagination.



He was lured back by the new UK distributor of Daihatsu vehicles,

International Motors.



The reason for the review is that Daihatsu is repositioning its whole

product range and wants an agency to work on launching this. By the end

of the year Daihatsu will cease production of all models above 1.3

litres to focus solely on the small car market. It will position itself

in the marketplace as a specialist small car manufacturer.



Tunnicliffe says: "It's important to understand our historical brand

association. In the UK people associate Daihatsu with agricultural

vehicles - with making jeep-type cars that are used primarily in farming

and other commercial sectors. But we are looking to reposition the

Daihatsu brand as pre-eminent in the small car market. Our advantage

will be that all our cars are small cars."



Tunnicliffe is clear on the kind of values that he will want emphasised

in Daihatsu's advertising - technical features, environmental

friendliness and value for money will be high on the agenda. However, he

is willing to reserve judgment on the creative approach until the agency

has been selected. He says: "The key role for the agency is to create a

brand identity so that Daihatsu means something. The advertising has to

make Daihatsu stand for something."



This has been Daihatsu's problem over the last few years. While its

advertising has been cheeky and irreverent, the confusing nature of its

product range and change in UK distribution ownership has made it

difficult for it to establish a clear brand proposition.



Daihatsu's sales have suffered. In 1999 it sold 9,381 cars (or 12,000 if

sales to businesses are taken into account). Last year it managed just

4,483 sales (or close to 6,000 including company and fleet cars). Its

marketing budget and stocks of new cars were hit by the change in

distribution from Inchcape to International Motors and a relocation

process that saw Daihatsu move from Dover to International Motors'

offices near Birmingham.



Before Wallis Tomlinson's appointment the Daihatsu creative account was

held by Banks Hoggins O'Shea/FCB, which was forced to resign the

business after the FCB merger because of conflict with Daimler-Chrysler.

Banks Hoggins focused initially on raising awareness that Daihatsu is a

Japanese manufacturer.



David Alexander, the joint creative director at Banks Hoggins, says:

"That task never stopped but later on we tried to add some personality

and establish some credibility. We wanted to convey this cheeky upstart

personality of Daihatsu being a thorn in the side of other manufacturers

and to run ads that other manufacturers didn't have the nuts to

run."



This culminated in a press campaign two years ago that cheekily compared

Daihatsu models to high-performance cars such as Porsche and

Lamborghini.



Ads used lines such as "Picks up five times more women than a

Lamborghini" for the Hijet people carrier. This irreverent approach

ended in a run-in with the Advertising Standards Authority earlier this

year when an ad by Wallis Tomlinson was withdrawn for encouraging

"anti-social driving".



Tunnicliffe says that Daihatsu will take a responsible attitude to its

advertising in the future. He admits that there are some similarities

between his task and that which faced Skoda, but argues: "We start from

a much stronger position than Skoda. Skoda started from a position of

people having negative attitudes and being ridiculed. We have a

non-image and need to inject personality into the brand."



George Wallis Jr, an account director at Wallis Tomlinson, says that its

strategy, until a new agency is appointed, is to position Daihatsu

vehicles as "quality, affordable motoring".



However, Tunnicliffe says Daihatsu will be cautious in its growth plans:

"The way to ruin a brand is to be hell-bent on growth in the short term,

so while I'm ambitious to grow it, I think controlled ambition is the

way forward."



Given Daihatsu's recent reputation for ads that have crossed the line it

will be interesting to see if the appointed agency applies the same

level of control.



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