Hyundai Splits With Richards; $560 Mil. Account up for Grabs

LOS ANGELES Hyundai Motor America has split with independent The Richards Group and placed its ad account in review, the agency confirmed. The automaker, which spent $560 million last year in U.S. measured media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, said a predetermined group of agencies selected by COO Steve Wilhite would be invited to pitch, but declined to name which ones. Dallas-based Richards will not defend; executives at that shop could not be reached for comment. Last month, Hyundai awarded a national ad campaign to Siltanen & Partners, Marina del Rey, Calif. Principal and cd Rob Siltanen said his shop’s campaign would include national television and print and encompass multiple models in the Hyundai lineup. In an unrelated move, the client in January disbanded its five dealer groups. Sales were flat in 2006 at 456,000 units, and down 8 percent in January 2007 compared to the first month of the previous year, according to Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

4 Finalists Await Decision In IOC Global Creative Review

NEW YORK The International Olympic Committee is expected to pick an agency to handle global creative duties within the next two weeks, following final presentations by four contenders, said sources. The pitches took place at IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland in the past two weeks. The finalists are Havas Sport in Paris, Publicis’ Leo Burnett in Chicago and London, WPP’s Sra. Rushmore United in Madrid, Spain and the incumbent, Publicis’ Saatchi & Saatchi here. The winner will create work that will run on networks as part of their contracts to air the 2008 Summer Games. If paid, the global media spend would be worth about $120 million.

BBDO to Launch Diet Pepsi Max, Returns to Roster After 3 Years

NEW YORK BBDO last week returned to the Diet Pepsi roster as the client awarded it creative duties for the launch of Diet Pepsi Max. The Omnicom shop lost lead duties on Diet Pepsi in 2004 to sibling DDB. A Pepsi representative confirmed that BBDO would be handling the new brand and said it was awarded without a review. However, he didn’t consider the assignment a “return to the diet roster” for the agency because the new product is considered “a whole new brand.” DDB remains lead agency on Diet Pepsi. Diet Pepsi Max is a zero-calorie beverage that contains more caffeine than Diet Pepsi and some ginseng. Media spending for the new product was not available. PepsiCo’s U.S. media spend behind Diet Pepsi was $65 million last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

CK, CareerBuilder Part Ways as $60 Mil. Business Goes Into Play

CHICAGO CareerBuilder has placed its $60 million account up for review, and the incumbent, independent Cramer-Krasselt, has opted not to defend, the agency and client confirmed. The client rep could not offer details about the split or a timetable for finding a new agency. The Chicago-based company spent nearly $40 million on advertising through September 2006 and nearly $60 million during 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The Chicago agency has handled creative and media duties on the account for the past five years. After taking on the account, it changed the company’s media strategy to concentrate more on Sundays and Mondays when people are looking ahead to the work week, and advocating advertising on the Super Bowl to take advantage of New Year’s resolutions that often include finding new jobs.

Tesco Names Deutsch/L.A. First Creative Agency in U.S.

LOS ANGELES International retail giant Tesco said last week that it had named Interpublic Group’s Deutsch/LA as its first U.S. agency without a review. Deutsch’s work is expected to launch later in the year in advance of Tesco’s first convenience stores in Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix. The domestic chain will be called Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, according to Simon Uwins, the U.S. chain’s CMO. Billings were undetermined. Operating 2,800 stores in 13 countries, Tesco made a pre-tax profit of $4.4 billion last fiscal year, according to the company, and plans to invest $500 million annually in its U.S. operations.

6 Finalists to Be Briefed Friday In $120+ Mil. Nokia Review

NEW YORK Executives from Nokia will brief six semifinalists on Friday in the estimated $120 million-plus global review of its mobile phone business, sources said. Traveling to client headquarters in Espoo, Finland, will be executives from the London offices of roster shops WPP’s Grey and Omnicom’s DDB, as well as independents Mother and Wieden + Kennedy, Publicis-backed BBH and WPP’s JWT, sources said. Grey handles the business in the U.S. and Europe, while DDB has the account in Latin America. WPP’s Bates, a roster shop in Asia, was expected to team with sibling Ogilvy & Mather, but neither shop is going forward, sources said. Executives at the agencies either could not be reached or referred calls to the client, which did not return calls.

WPP 2006 Profit Hits $1.26 Bil. on Revenue Rise

BOSTON Leveraging solid performances by operating units across all geographies and disciplines, WPP today reported a 15 percent increase in 2006 pre-tax profit to $1.26 billion on a 10 percent revenue rise to nearly $11 billion, compared to the previous 12 months. On an organic basis, excluding currency fluctuations and the impact of acquisitions, revenue at the London-based holding company rose 5.4 percent. WPP also said its operating margin improved to 14.5 percent, compared to 14 percent in 2005. Overall, the company said it added nearly $6.5 billion in net new business in 2006.