Having recently informed fifteen-year incumbent Bates USA West in Irvine, California, that it was reviewing its $160 million US creative business [WAMN: 28-Jan-02], Hyundai Motor America has contacted a number of agencies with a request for proposals.

Bates is participating in the search, with other recipients of the rfp including: Foote Cone & Belding in Irvine, California; the Los Angeles office of Grey Worldwide; Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis; San Francisco’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos; Ground Zero in Marina del Rey, California; Siltanen/Keehn in El Segundo, California; and three New York shops – Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, Bozell and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

Berlin Cameron has already declined due to parent WPP Group’s cosy relationship with Ford, while client conflict may pose problems for Hill, Holliday, whose Interpublic Group siblings work with General Motors.

In the rfp, Hyundai stresses its “untapped potential”, aiming to become a “real Toyota/Honda level brand”. The auto firm is “very concerned about potentially dominating or overrunning a small agency.”

Participating shops must be prepared to open a dedicated office in southern California and “fully service both the factory and the dealer side on a consolidated basis.” The latter comment is assumed to mean that the dealer account will be added to the national business, bumping up the billings to $200m.

Bates president/chief operating officer Bill Whitehead expressed confidence in his agency’s work. “Our track record speaks for itself,” he argued. “Hyundai went from being one of the worst jokes on TV five years ago to one of the best franchises in North America.” Sales jumped 24% last year and 42.6% in 2000.

Replies to the rfp, along with qualifications and creative samples, should be in by February 11, with eight participants due to be announced at the end of the month. A decision is expected in mid-April.

News source: Adweek.com