Toyota names Burrell its black agency

As expected, Toyota Division on Thursday signed Burrell Communications Group in Chicago as its first black advertising agency of record.

Burrell was the largest black ad agency in the United States without an automotive account. Some of the other five finalists in the review, in hopes of demonstrating they could fully serve Toyota, paired with other agencies to create a required campaign.

"We had no clear winner from Day One," said Steve Sturm, Toyota's vice president of marketing. "It was not the smallness or the largeness of the agency. It went down to the way they presented the campaign, their creativity, their ability to work on the business, as well as their ability to address the needs of the African-American community."

Toyota has been searching for a black ad agency since June. The division has used its mainstream agency, Saatchi & Saatchi in Los Angeles, for black campaigns, but two of the agency's ads have offended the black community.

The most recent controversy, in May, centered on a postcard that featured a smiling black man with a gold Toyota RAV4 on his tooth. A diversity panel formed soon afterward will review Burrell's work for sensitivity as it does Toyota's other agency work.

The division was looking for a black agency that could handle more than traditional advertising, Sturm said. "We needed an agency that could do online, promotions, even publicity," he said. "We wanted their client list to be across a broad range of products, and we wanted people who worked on the automotive side or at least understood the marketplace."

Burrell's clients include McDonald's, Sears, Coca-Cola and Verizon Wireless. The agency will share $50 million a year with Conill Advertising in New York, Toyota's Hispanic agency. Sturm would not disclose the length of Burrell's contract.

The agency's first work for the division will break early next year. Toyota may use components of Burrell's pitch, Sturm said.

The agency is not working for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.'s Lexus Division.

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