Kia’s Top Marketer Beavis Leaves

DETROIT Kia vp of marketing Ian Beavis has left the company, along with CEO Len Hunt.

No reason was been given far their joint departure. Company officials did not return calls. Sources said the two did not depart voluntarily.

The move comes several days after Byung Mo Ahn was named to the newly created position of chairman and group CEO of Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, the automotive plant currently under construction in West Point, Ga.

Ahn served as president and CEO of Kia Motors America, Fountain Valley, Calif., from 1999 through 2001.

Kia has spent more than $200 million in domestic measured media in each of the past two years, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Beavis came to Kia in May 2005, six months after leaving Mitsubishi. He was responsible for all marketing, advertising and product planning.

Kia said Tim Chaney, director of marketing, has been named acting department head. Randy Maurstad and Alex Fedorak, respectively the heads of product planning and public relations, also pick up some of the duties previously handled by Beavis.

Beavis’ first move was to form an integrated marketing unit with its primary agency, davidandgoliath, Los Angeles, called dngideation. Then he launched a campaign stressing the value proposition of Kia. That was quickly followed by a contest in which consumers could submit video “automotive bill of rights” ideas at a dedicated Web site encouraged in broadcast spots by a hyperbolic pitchman.

Most recently, he cemented a partnership with the NBA that, he said, took two years to get done.

Beavis above all brought humor to the brand, which was fighting a perception of inferior quality as well as a reputation for bland styling when he arrived.

“At the top, it is kind of an assumption at Korean automakers that your tenure will be short,” said Todd Turner, principal analyst at Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif. “But for a marketing executive to get blown out is very unusual, because his talent was so obvious. Everything he did was humorous, fun, intelligent, and never bowed to a level of cheapness. Those things were all critical for Kia to build the value of its brand.”

New models with more design flair such as the Rondo and Sorento crossovers and the upcoming Berrago SUV aimed to attract new buyers to the brand, also lured by a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty and a low price point.

Kia sales rose 11 percent to 305,473 under Beavis, per AutoData, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

In an interview with Brandweek last month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Beavis outlined plans for the year, which included an increase in the ad budget, including broadcast, while keeping print spending flat.

“We have discipline for what we want to do,” he said. “There are so many emerging platforms, and we will fine-tune our offerings. I’m a media agnostic. I don’t have to have anything, and people’s consumption changes.”

He also outlined a remodel of the Kia Web site and a dedicated Hispanic site. Of his approach to the consumer, Beavis said: “We don’t scream at you. We bring charm and a light touch.”

Hunt came to Kia in October 2005 from Volkswagen, where he was evp for the brand’s North American operations.

Beavis’ agency background includes stints as president and CEO of FCB in San Francisco and Seattle. He also worked as an svp at Bozell, Detroit, on the DaimlerChrysler account and at Saatchi & Saatchi on Toyota. A native Australian, he started as a marketing communications manager at Lincoln Mercury.