Going Bicoastal: With Eye on Kia, Griffin Bacal Looks to Buy Stake in L.A. Shop

Griffin Bacal, the $200-million New York agency best known as Hasbro’s primary shop, is actively looking to buy into an L.A. agency, its immediate goal being pursuit of the Kia auto account.
Sources said that Griffin Bacal executives have talked to the principals of at least three shops here: L.A.’s Mendelsohn/Zien and Stein Robaire Helm, and Kresser/Craig, Santa Monica, Calif., in hopes of getting an equity stake in the West.
The discussions reportedly went the furthest with M/Z, though an agreement wasn’t reached.
Griffin Bacal’s talks in L.A. actually began late last year and outside of the Kia realm. ‘As part of our North American expansion, which includes Toronto and Mexico City, L.A. is our next logical step,’ said Griffin Bacal executive vp Myer Berlow. He wouldn’t confirm talks with any shops in particular but said he had spent much of the past month in L.A. on this effort.
Berlow would not confirm that the agency is pursuing Kia, but car experience is a common theme at the shops the agency has initiated talks with.
Executives at Kia, the South Korean carmaker which plans to enter the U.S. auto market next year, have said that the review will not begin until a marketing vp is on board. But Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor/N.Y. and Bloom/FCA, N.Y. are also said to be in talks with the carmaker.
An L.A. presence would represent the agency’s first expansion in the U.S., although it has been active in expanding on this continent and abroad. While the international expansion is related to the needs of its Hasbro client, the L.A. search probably represents the shop’s desire to grow beyond kids’ marketing.
GB is also believed to handle some Nestle business, but Berlow would not confirm those reports. It is not likely, however, that the reported relationship with Nestle, which has U.S. headquarters in L.A., is involved in the agency’s search for a West Coast partner.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)

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