$800 Mil. Hyundai/Kia Eyes 5 for Media

NEW YORK Five contenders are vying for the Hyundai/Kia media business, according to sources. They are: Publicis Groupe’s Optimedia, Interpublic’s Initiative, Havas Media and independent Horizon Media, as well as the incumbent, Aegis Group’s Carat, sources said.

Chemistry and credentials checks were held at the client’s offices in Irvine, Calif., this week, and a cut to finalists is forthcoming, possibly next week, per sources.

Agency and client officials either could not be reached or declined comment.

Combined domestic measured media spending topped $800 million in 2006, with Hyundai accounting for $600 million of that outlay, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Through the first eight months of 2007, Hyundai and Kia spent about $320 million and $150 million, respectively, on U.S. ads.

Sources said the list is relatively short for a car account of this size due largely to the fact that most other major media agencies have conflicts. In fact, three contenders in the Hyundai/Kia review either have other car or dealer accounts or have corporate connections to shops with such assignments.

Optimedia sibling Zenith works for Toyota. Havas Media is the media services management unit that oversees the Paris-based holding company’s media shops and related assets, including MPG, which works for Volvo. Last year, Horizon won the Southern California Honda Dealers Association. (Horizon was the runner-up in 2002 when Carat added the Hyundai/Kia account.)

The client in early October confirmed placing its media planning and buying in play. World Marketing Group (WMG), the Irvine-based media management group for Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America, said it selected Roth Associates to guide the process. Roth did not return calls today seeking comment.

“We are confident that with Roth Associates supporting the review, WMG will have the best opportunity to select the right media agency to help us meet strategic needs for Hyundai and Kia, growing brands in the North American market,” said William Lee, COO at WMG, in a statement when he confirmed the review a month ago. At the time, the client said Carat would get an automatic finalist berth in the review.

Creative is not in play. Hyundai’s lead creative shop is Omnicom Group’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which added the business in April. Kia’s creative agency is independent davidandgoliath.