Carat Taps Somerset to Oversee Hyundai/Kia Media

Carat USA’s evolution into a major player in Los Angeles’ top ad category gained speed with last week’s hire of automotive media veteran Tom Somerset as svp, group director on the shop’s Hyundai/Kia media business.

Somerset is the latest in a series of high-profile hires in the past year, as Carat has won clients in L.A.’s top two ad categories. At $1 billion in bill ings, the shop has become the largest media buyer on the West Coast.

Carat has been talking to candidates since winning Hyundai/Kia in January. A 100-person team for the account will be complete within a month, said John Barnes, evp, managing director.

“We wanted to start from the top down and let everything cascade from there,” Barnes said. “This is a big job, and we are fortunate to have someone of Tom’s caliber join us.”

Somerset, whose first day will be April 22, comes from Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif., where he was executive media director. He will work from a soon-to-open Orange County office near Hyundai’s Fountain Valley headquarters.

Somerset has a reputation as a “smart, research-oriented” auto-category player, said one agency executive. In his 25 years in the business, Somerset has worked on Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Audi, Acura and Mazda.

“[The opportunity] to work on a double car brand is something I just can’t turn down,” Somerset said about his new post.

The consolidated Hyundai factory, and Kia factory and dealer media business is worth about $400 million. Carat won the business after a review.

The estimated $60-70 million Hyun dai dealer account, currently at Bates USA West, is expected to move to Carat by the end of May. Carat recently hired Joe Cerone, who ran Hyundai’s dealer business at Bates, to lead the Hyundai/Kia spot- buying team, based in Atlanta.

Since winning Hyundai/Kia and New Line Studios last year, Carat has been able to woo several high-profile media-agency executives, including svp, group director Cindy Borges, a former managing partner at KSL Media, L.A., who joined late last year.