Lexus calls pitch for new model

Saatchi & Saatchi on alert as Clemmow Hornby Inge prepares to snatch launch advertising brief.

Saatchi & Saatchi's grip on the Toyota account has weakened further with the news that Clemmow Hornby Inge is pitching for its iconic Lexus brand across Europe.

Saatchis is rumoured to have flown in a global team, including the global creative chief, Bob Isherwood, to defend its Toyota business. It is understood that this review is for an individual Lexus model launch.

The news comes as a blow to Saatchis. Toyota is the network's second-biggest client, after Procter & Gamble, but over the past three years CHI has made some serious inroads into its European business.

CHI has already won pan-European briefs for the Aygo, Yaris and Corolla marques and earlier this year, the agency picked up the UK tactical advertising account.

If CHI takes the Lexus business, Saatchis could lose an estimated £23 million in annual UK billings, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The European billings figure is estimated to be at least double that.

With a global annual spend of $2.5 billion, Toyota is the fourth-largest advertiser in the world.

Saatchis' recent work for Lexus has represented a major departure from the product-led style for the car brand. Last June, the agency backed the launch of the part-electric and part-petrol model, the Lexus RX 400h, with a 90-second CGI-heavy film directed by Laurent Bourdoiseau.

"Hybrid", which is light on the usual car product shots, opens on a series of organic-looking light trails that swirl around each other, representing the germination of the hybrid concept.

In January 2006, Saatchis created an ad entitled "design that moves you" to promote the Lexus IS model. The ad shows the car gliding through a field of what appear to be fibre optics, illustrating the car's technical innovation.

As Campaign went to press, Rachel Rollason, the national marketing manager at Toyota, and Saatchis declined to comment. CHI denied there was a pitch.

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