Japanese-owned Dentsu Holdings USA -- the stateside unit of the world's fifth largest marketing services holding company (2003 aggregated global billings: $2.545 billion) -- has finally made its move on the American agency scene as an entity in its own right.

Currently Dentsu operates in the US mainly via Saatchi & Saatchi in whose parent, Publicis Groupe it holds an 18% stake. It also owns five small agencies with combined billings of around $500 million (€415.49m; £273.63m).

Back home, however, in the globe's second largest advertising market, Dentsu is dominant, controlling almost half of Japan's media buying. But beyond its own backyard, Dentsu remains a relative minnow with just 10% of revenues derived from overseas sources.

Nick Kobuse, chairman of Dentsu USA, aims to change all that: "We'd like to do at least 15%," he told AdAge.com. His opening gambit is the purchase of a small New York agency Oasis Advertising and merging it with DCA Advertising, a Manhattan shop its already owns.

Acquisitions of other specialized US agencies will follow, although "our strategy is to become a more local agency," Kobuse says.

The glittering prize, however, is Toyota's $1.01bn US business, most of which is currently held by Saatchi & Saatchi. Is Dentsu out to heist this?

Perish the thought, protests Kobuse. He insists that Dentsu's sole aim is to take advantage of Toyota's US growth and pitch for new business as the carmaker introduces younger and more upscale models. "If there is new business, Saatchi & Saatchi or Dentsu will get it," he said with percipient confidence.

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff