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Nielsen Throws Car Maker's Media Audit a Curve

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There is a new wrinkle in Hyundai Motor Co.'s review of independent media-audit firms: Nielsen Media Research will not let the firms use its national broadcast data because Hyun dai is not a Nielsen client.

The carmaker launched a search last month [Adweek, May 20] for an audit firm to oversee its combined $400 million Hyundai factory and Kia factory and dealer media buying business in the U.S. That account was awarded to Aegis Group's Carat Los Angeles early this year. (Carat has pitched the $160 million-plus Hyundai dealer business as well.)

Without Nielsen's data, the audit firms would not be able to "rerate" the national broadcast schedule—that is, verify that a rating the agency says it delivered with a spot running on, say, Friends on a certain night was actually delivered.

"We've been talking to Hyundai about becoming a client," said Anne Elliot, vp, communications for the research company (which is owned by Adweek parent company VNU). She said Niel sen's policy could allow for "contracts and agreements that lay out permissible uses" by third parties if they agree to share the data only with Nielsen clients.

A representative for Hyundai's World Marketing Group, which oversees the combined Hyundai/Kia media account and is running the audit-firm review, confirmed that Nielsen had contacted the automotive marketer but said it is too early to tell if or how the review would be affected.

"Why would Hyundai even bother [reviewing audit firms] if it can't audit national broadcast?" asked one source. "So the whole thing's up in the air."

The two Korean nameplates collectively spent more than $180 million on national broadcast in 2001, according to CMR.

Presentations for the auditing business have been made by Hawk Media, San Francisco; Advantage Media, Lakewood, Colo.; Media Management, St. Louis; and MediaAnalysisPlus, Denver, sources said. A decision was initially expected this month.