Initiative beat out incumbent Aegis Group's Carat and Havas Media for the massive account. The automaker spent about $735 million in U.S. measured media for the Hyundai and Kia brands in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
Publicis Groupe's Optimedia also pitched, but didn't make it to the final round, according to executives familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for Initiative referred calls to the clients.
Creative remains untouched
The review, handled by New York-based Roth Associates, had no affect on Hyundai's or Kia's creative agencies, which are Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners and independent David & Goliath, respectively.
Hyundai's automaker's media-management entity, World Marketing Group, announced the review in October, soon after Chief Operating Officer Steve Wilhite abruptly left the company and 2007 U.S. sales projections were reduced by 40,000 units.
In December, the company announced a new executive to head its North American operations, Jong Eun Kim.
There were eight voting members on the review panel, but executives were waiting for final approval from the parent company in Seoul, South Korea, executives close to the matter said.
Carat had been with the automaker for five years. Carat CEO Sarah Fay said the account loss was "sad news" for the agency, but that the silver lining for Carat is an opportunity to pitch another auto account.
"This has been an important, successful piece of business. ... We still see a future in the automotive business," she said.