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Hyundai Hits the Street With RFP

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LOS ANGELES -- Sales may be soaring, but Hyundai Motor America sees "untapped potential" and is eager to become a "real Toyota/Honda level brand," according to the RFP for its $160 million national creative account.

Bates USA West in Irvine, Calif., is defending the business, which it has handled since Hyundai's 1986 launch in the U.S. The search is being led by Select Resources International, West Hollywood, Calif.

The RFP states that shops must be ready to "fully service both the factory and the dealer side on a consolidated basis," which contenders take to mean that the dealer account will follow the national business. Should the dealer portion be added, the combined budget will reach
$200 million, the RFP states.

More than a dozen shops received the RFP, including Bozell and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, both New York; Foote, Cone & Belding, Irvine, Calif.; Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif.; Grey, Los Angeles; Siltanen/Keehn, El Segundo, Calif.; Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis; Hill, Holliday, San Francisco; and Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, sources said. Berlin declined because its WPP Group siblings have Ford; it is unclear if Hill, Holliday and FCB can pitch because other IPG shops handle General Motors.

Bates president and COO Bill Whitehead pointed to the dramatic sales gains seen by the car maker. "Our track record speaks for itself," he said. "Hyundai went from being one of the worst jokes on TV five years ago to one of the best franchises in North America."

Sales increased 42.6 percent in 2000 to 234,059 units, and grew 24 percent in 2001 to 290,218 units, according to Ward's Automotive.

Hyundai's success has been built on its 100,000-mile, 10-year warranty. Current creative is linked by the theme, "Driving Is Believing."

The RFP said the client is "very concerned about potentially dominating or overrunning a small agency." It states that agencies do not have to be headquartered in Southern California, but would have to establish a service office here.

Sources said decision makers at Hyundai include vp of marketing Dave Weber, president Finbarr O'Neill, vp of sales Bob Cosmai and a dealer representative.

Responses, agency qualifications and creative samples are due Feb. 11. Eight contenders will be revealed the final week of February, followed by a cut to three or four shops. Finalists will be briefed on March 7. Final pitches are scheduled for early April, with a decision expected by mid-month.

-- with staff reports