Hyundai Gives Bates USA Fifteen Minutes Notice: One for Each Year of Their Relationship

28 January 2002

On Friday Hyundai Motor America told a meeting of its key dealers that it was putting its creative business up for review – all of fifteen minutes after breaking the news to its sole agency of fifteen years, Bates USA West.

The bombshell was dropped during at the annual convention of National Automotive Dealers Association in New Orleans. Many of the Hyundai dealers were not best pleased at the news. “Business is awfully good now. Why do we have to be doing this right now?,” asked one. Countered another: “We have a great deal of trust in [Hyundai US] management that’s led us since 1998.”

The decision to review creative follows last week’s switch of Hyundai’s $480 million media planning and buying business out of Bates and Omnicom’s OMD (which handled the automaker’s Kia subsidiary) and into Carat North America.

Buts, insists Hyundai vp for marketing, David Weber: “This is not being done because of dissatisfaction with Bates' creative.” According to Weber, Bates – a unit of Cordiant Communications Group – has been invited to participate in the beauty pageant.

He denied the upheaval was driven by Hyundai/Kia's South Korean parent, claiming that separate studies in Korea and Stateside agreed this to be the most cost-effective for the two auto brands – Kia being acquired in December 1998.

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