Goodyear Tire & Rubber said Wednesday that it has officially begun a review of its $40-million-a-year advertising account with the J. Walter Thompson agency and that it would consider five advertising agencies, including Thompson, as part of the review.
Thompson has handled facets of Goodyear's advertising since 1978. James K. DeVoe, vice president of advertising at Goodyear, said the Akron, Ohio-based tire maker will announce its decision by Aug. 1 on which agency will get the account.
With its agency review, Goodyear is following through on threats it made before the Thompson agency's parent firm, JWT Group, was bought last week for $566 million by WPP Group, a British-based marketing firm.
"In order to make money out of the deal, they (WPP) will probably want to reduce people and service levels," DeVoe said. "We don't like that." DeVoe would not name the other agencies being considered for the big Goodyear account.
Meanwhile, Thompson's two biggest advertisers--Ford Motor and Eastman Kodak--are taking a far softer approach than Goodyear. Spokesmen from both companies said Wednesday that no changes are planned.
"Sure, we're taking a look to see what this sale might mean to us," a Ford spokesman said, "but this is not an agency review. We're very happy with Thompson."
Thompson's Burger King account was placed up for review before the sale, but some analysts now speculate that the hamburger chain will also remain with Thompson.
No major client of Thompson's has jumped ship since the sale was announced. Donald Deaton, a company spokesman, would not comment on the prospects of any of them bailing out. "We're not permitted to comment on our client relationships," he said.
Despite industry speculation that the sale to WPP could cost Thompson major accounts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, at least one industry analyst said Thompson might not lose any of its big-name clients.
"These giant accounts are not as movable as many people assume they are," James Dougherty, an analyst at the New York research firm of Eberstadt Fleming, said. "There aren't many big agencies that can handle these accounts adequately."