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Bates Looks Beyond Hyundai After Losing Creative

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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 stay alive in Irvine, Calif. Although the shop could still hang on to the Korean auto maker's dealer business, Bates seems to have already written off its longtime client.

Bates' contract for the dealer account runs through September, said Bill Whitehead, Bates Worldwide regional president of the Americas. Spending last year for the creative and media 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 Hyundai's 2003 models, that it presented to the client.

Hyundai is expected to make a decision on media buying for its dealer business 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.

Bates appears resigned to losing Hyundai altogether. "There may be other automotive clients who want to take advantage of [our] superior capabilities," said Whitehead, adding that Bates is "focused 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, currently 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' winning Hyundai pitch was led by principal Dale Hruby and creative directors Mike Malone and David Jenkins. Stan Richards was also present.

The shop plans to add 50 staffers to service the account, with 13 working at its Seal Beach, Calif., outpost.