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Bates Fights To Keep Irvine Office Afloat

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With the creative portion of Hyundai Motor America's $160 million national account set to move to The Richards Group, Bates USA West is fighting to keep its Irvine, Calif., office alive. Although the shop could hang on to the Korean automaker's dealer business, Bates seems to have already written off its longtime client.

Bates' contract for the dealer portion of the account runs through September, said Bill Whitehead, Bates Worldwide regional president of the Americas. Spending last year for the dealer account was $110 million, according to CMR.

A meeting between Richards and the Hyundai Dealer Association of America board, led by dealer council chairman Tom O'Brien of Tom O'Brien Hyundai in Quincy, Mass., is expected in the next few weeks. The shop is waiting for approval to proceed with one of two national campaigns, for Hyun dai's 2003 models, that it presented to the client.

Hyundai is expected to make a decision on media buying for its dealer business later this month. Carat, Los Angeles, which won the $450 million Hyundai/Kia corporate media account in March, is the favorite to pick up the dealer billings as well, sources said.

Meanwhile, Bates appears re signed to losing Hyundai altogether. "There may be other auto motive cli ents who want to take advantage of [our] superior capa bilities," said Whitehead, add ing that Bates is "fo cused on securing another car account for the Irvine office." He said the office is also targeting other business, such as the five-year, $125 million California Lottery account, cur rently in review.

Eighty Bates staffers in Irvine and more than 30 nationwide work on Hyundai. Whitehead said there will be "staff adjustments" due to the loss.

Richards plans to add about 50 positions for Hyundai.