Hyundai Motor America is expected to cut to three or four finalists early this week in the review for the national creative portion of its $160 million account, confirmed Select Resources International, which is leading the search.
Ten shops are currently vying for the account in what has become one of the most high-profile reviews in recent memory. Sources said the one previously undisclosed contender is The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va. Martin is said to be still deciding whether to move forward in the review. Executives there referred calls to SRI in West Hollywood, Calif., which declined comment.
Martin has solid car experience, but it also has a potential conflict. The shop had handled General Motors' Saab Cars USA account until January 2001, when the business shifted to sister shop Lowe Brindfors in Stockholm, Sweden, and then to Lowe in New York. Martin continues to handle U.S. direct and relationship marketing for Saab.
Other participating shops include incumbent Bates USA West in Irvine, Calif.; Foote, Cone & Belding in Irvine and San Francisco; Grey in Los Angeles; Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston and San Francisco; Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco; Publicis in the West in Seattle; Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore.; Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis; and The Richards Group in Dallas.
The Fountain Valley, Calif., client visited agencies last week for chemistry checks. One source described the sessions as "free-form meetings." They lasted an hour or two, and discussion included turning Hyundai into a "tier-one brand," said sources.
Finalists are expected to meet with the client the week of March 18 for work sessions and present strategy and speculative creative in early April. A decision is expected by the end of April.
The review was launched in late January after Hyundai and its Kia division moved their consolidated $400 million media account to Carat, New York. Bates had handled media buying for Hyundai. OMD, New York, was Kia's media incumbent. Kia creative is handled by davidandgoliath.
Bates continues to handle Hyun dai's dealer advertising, although sources have said the shop that wins the national creative account could pick up the dealer business as well.
Bates has worked with Hyundai since the client entered the U.S. market in 1986. The automaker is currently using the tagline "Driving is believing."
—with David Gianatasio
and Alicia Griswold