New Hyundai Clients Trigger Change at Bates

Bates USA is reorganizing its staffing on the Hyundai Motor America account, the agency’s single-largest client in the U.S.
The Irvine, Calif., shop last week hired car agency veteran John Upton to serve as executive vice president/group account director, a new post on the estimated $150 million business. Top account duties are still handled by chief executive Tim Hart.
Upton, 49, was senior vice president at RPalpha, a unit of Rubin Postaer and Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., where he directed the $200 million Honda regional marketing program. Prior to RPA, he managed the $120 million Nissan regional marketing program at the former Chiat/Day from 1990 to 1993.
The addition of Upton follows other changes on Bates’ Hyundai team. Earlier this year, creative director Richard Butt left and creative oversight was moved to New York under executive creative director Mike Robertson. Director of client services Tony Taylor also left recently [Adweek, May 31].
Several new faces at the client presaged the changes. Hyundai added a new president, Finbarr O’Neill; a director of marketing, Dave Weber; and a director of sales, Robert
Cosmai, all in the past year. Both the client and agency denied it was a case of new executives installing their own teams. However, both Weber and Upton held positions at William Esty in Los Angeles in the early ’80s, and Upton also dealt with Cosmai at RPalpha when Cosmai was at Honda recently.
The account has also nearly doubled in size from its $80 million in billings in 1998. Hyundai sales are up 56 percent year-to-date over the same period last year, according to Weber.
Bates is also preparing to launch four new or redesigned Hyundai vehicles in the next year, including the Santa Fe SUV, due next spring.
“We had to revamp how we run that business since it has grown dramatically,” Hart said. “We’ve tapped resources in New York, and we’re revamping here to match their commitment and energy level.”