Hyundai puts P&A in driver's seat

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CA: In an effort to dispel negative perceptions of the Hyundai brand that have lingered since the mid-80s, Hyundai Motor America this month named Paine & Associates as its PR agency of record after a two-month search.

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CA: In an effort to dispel negative perceptions of the Hyundai brand that have lingered since the mid-80s, Hyundai Motor America this month named Paine & Associates as its PR agency of record after a two-month search.

Chris Hosford, director of Hyundai PR, told PRWeek that the carmaker, based in Fountain Valley, CA, began with a field of 12 agencies and whittled the list down to four with the assistance of consultant Swerling & Associates.

The incumbent, GCI Group, was invited but declined to participate in the review. GCI had handled Hyundai public relations for six years.

Hyundai's PR expenditures are expected to be in the high six figures next year, up from the low six figures this year, according to Hosford.

Hosford said he went with the Costa Mesa, CA-based P&A because of the firm's reputation for creativity.

'It's a small shop - very creative, it's best known for that,' he said.

'We're really looking for opportunities to rise above the typical PR campaign, and Paine offered us the best chance of doing that.'

Hyundai also has a five-person in-house PR staff that works with the automotive press and will continue to do so, while Paine embarks on a broad-based media relations campaign that Hyundai hopes will broaden awareness and improve the perception of the carmaker. Although Hyundai's vehicles have improved since the 1980s, Hosford said the company's image has not kept pace.

P&A senior vice president Paul Wood told PRWeek that the campaign is currently in development and slated to launch in 1999.

The effort will support Hyundai's line of passenger cars and dealership network and will target 'young sensibles,' Wood's term for Generation X car buyers who have not had exposure to the Hyundai brand. Wood and P&A director Cynthia Rude will oversee the campaign.

Wood said Hyundai ranks among P&A's top clients.

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