Korea's Innocean Plots European Expansion to Diversify Beyond Hyundai, Kia

Agency Uses Cannes Ad Fest to Announce Ambitious Goal: Become a 'Top Tier' Global Network by 2016

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Innocean -- the Korean agency owned by Hyundai Motors chairman Chung Mong Koo and his daughter Chung Sung-yi -- is pushing forth with its quest to be known around the world as more than an "in-house" agency.

While the rest of the ad market eyes Asia and Latin America for growth, Innocean is making its bet on Europe -- a counterintuitive move given the continent's economic woes over the past few years.

"Most people think that opportunity is moving East, but we see Europe as a market full of untapped potential, particularly as the economic climate drives businesses to seek out more creative, integrated and effective ways of doing business," Ike Kwon, president-CEO of Innocean Worldwide Europe, said in a statement. "Innocean is investing heavily in its European operations, and we look forward to reaping the benefits alongside our clients in years to come."

The agency announced it has landed its first non-auto client in Europe, Turkish Airlines, which it won after a pitch against nine other shops. Innocean didn't disclose those agencies.

As part of its aggressive new business push, Innocean is investing big in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The company is a major sponsor of the ad festival in the South of France, and is hosting a seminar there on Tuesday about fusing east and west sensibilities when it comes to design. Mr. Kwon also secured a spot on a Cannes jury in the media category.

Mr. Kwon is pitching clients a mix of East-West thinking, an "iron work ethic that few of the traditional agencies can match." He's also trying to bait them with the promise of the same integrated model it uses for Hyundai and Kia, that services the auto companies with creative, media strategy and a mix of other marketing services.

Innocean may be ready to welcome new, non-auto clients. But only time will tell whether it can convince blue-chip marketers the agency will be dedicated to their business needs at the same time as serving the needs of its owner and demanding client Hyundai.

So far only small non-auto brands that have signed on, like Turkish Airlines, and in the U.S., golf performance brand Footjoy.

Scale matters too; for a lot of big multinationals, having a sizable global footprint is still important so it will need to invest in infrastructure too if it wants to compete with major agency networks like Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, Omnicom Group's BBDO or Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann.

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