Mazda’s Irvine, California-based North American unit last night said it was dropping long-serving ad agency Doner (which created the ‘Zoom Zoom’ tagline) for the WPP group.

“…After an extensive agency review, [we are] in contract negotiations with WPP Group to become [our] full-service marketing communications partner…,” the automaker said in a statement.

Doner has worked for Mazda since 1997.

MNAO’s chief marketing officer Don Romano did not give specific reasons for the switch. 

“We have had a very successful relationship with Doner,” he said.  “In fact, Doner helped create our global ‘Zoom-Zoom’ brand positioning a decade ago, which we have no plans to change. But as a result of our review, we felt that a new marketing communications partner would assist us in achieving our short- and long-term North American sales goals.”

President & CEO Jim O’Sullivan said: “We undertook an agency review as a process check, to ensure our company is properly positioned for substantial growth in North America. While each one of the agencies we interviewed had unique qualifications, WPP has the broadest set of assets that best fit Mazda’s global needs. I’m extremely confident that WPP can take Mazda to the next level.”

WPP is no stranger to Mazda, having been the European units “marketing partner” for over 12 years. It will now also be responsible for marketing and communications support to MNAO’s US, Canadian and Mexican operations and, the automaker said, “will bring a global perspective to the company’s North American marketing communications. For the first time, MNAO’s marketing communications will be directed by a common agency.”

Hill & Knowlton, MNAO’s public relations agency for over 30 years, “will continue to provide MNAO public relations and public affairs counsel and support,” the statement said.

According to Dow Jones, Doner’s owners – David DeMuth, Rob Strasberg and Tim Blett – broke the news to staff in a memo circulated through its office on Monday. The firm reportedly gave no specific reason for Mazda’s departure, only saying that the automaker “has decided to go in a new direction”.

Romano told the news agency the company had no plans to change the ‘Zoom-Zoom’ tagline.

Mazda spent $152m on measured media in the US last year, down from $245.5m in 2008, the report said.