Why FCB Bailed on Hyundai

NEW YORK — In the search for reasons why Foote, Cone & Belding abruptly left the $160 million Hyundai review last week, all roads lead to General Motors.

Interpublic Group chief John Dooner encouraged Brendan Ryan, head of FCB, to exit the review so as not to upset GM, according to sources. While the Detroit client has been willing to tolerate existing potential conflicts within the walls of IPG, it is said to have balked at FCB’s pursuit of an account that could represent a new conflict.

IPG’s McCann handles GM’s Buick brand and the GM corporate account.

There is, additionally, a twist to the explanation, sources said. What clinched IPG’s decision to have FCB pull out of the review was its hope that GM will move additional business to the holding company. IPG is said to be awaiting fallout from Publicis Groupe’s pending buyout of D’Arcy parent Bcom3. The deal will bring several car accounts under the same roof as GM’s business at D’Arcy, namely BMW at Fallon, Toyota/Lexus at Saatchi & Saatchi and Renault at Publicis.

Regarding conflicts created by the Bcom3 acquisition, GM representative Peg Holmes said, “The Bcom3 companies have been good partners for us, so we’re studying the current situation with them.” Under consideration, sources said, is moving the business into IPG and, possibly, FCB.

But GM would refuse to consider IPG for more business should FCB pursue, and win, rival business, sources said.

At stake is the $140 million Cadillac and $130 million Pontiac accounts, now handled by D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles in Detroit. A shop executive in New York referred calls to the client.

Dooner could not be reached for comment.

FCB’s San Francisco and Irvine, Calif., offices joined forces on the Hyundai pitch, then suddenly pulled out last Tuesday, declining comment. Remaining contenders are the incumbent, Bates USA West in Irvine, Calif.; Publicis in the West, Seattle; Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco; and The Richards Group in Dallas.