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July 2, 2001

By Jean Halliday

DETROIT ( -- As Kia Motors America prepares to announce the hiring of a new marketing chief, speculation is swirling that the automaker may split from ad agency davidandgoliath, Los Angeles.

Kia is poised to hire, as early as this week, ex-Nissan North America executive Tom Eastwood as executive vice president of sales and marketing, people close to the automaker said. After 16 years with the company, Mr. Eastwood was forced out of Nissan in February 1998 in an executive purging. Mr. Eastwood, who moved up through the sales ranks, was vice president-general manager of the Nissan and Infiniti divisions when he left at age 50.

Mr. Eastwood, reached at home, said he recently ended his yearlong involvement in, an online auto concern.

Denials issued
Both he and Kia denied his hiring. Geno Effler, Kia's spokesman, indicated the South Korean importer is close to naming the replacement to Dick Macedo but denied it was Mr. Eastwood. A management change comes as sales of Hyundai Motor Co.-owned Kia continue to boom. Kia's U.S. sales through May were up 35% to 60,397 vehicles, according to Automotive News.

Mr. Macedo retired from Kia in April after working his way up the ladder from vice president of marketing. The former agency-executive-turned-client was the kingpin in hiring upstart davidandgoliath without a review in November 1999 after splitting with Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco.

Agency doing new spots
When asked whether the independent agency was in trouble on the account, Mr. Effler replied, "I wouldn't think so since there's no new exec VP yet." He later gave the stronger reply of "yes" when questioned whether davidandgoliath was safe on the $119 million account, adding the agency is working on new Kia spots.

Skip Sullivan, the agency's chief operating officer-managing partner, said a new TV spot for the Optima mid-size sedan arrives this week. He confirmed the shop recently let go four staffers but said cuts came because "we're evolving our operations" and had nothing to do with Kia.

He confirmed davidandgoliath is expanding its relationship with Omnicom Group agencies to do media planning with OMD, but he but declined to elaborate.

When davidandgoliath announced it had won the account, the agency said it had formed partnerships with Omnicom's OMD for media buying, Interbrand for brand strategy and Rapp Collins Worldwide for database marketing.

One executive said Kia wants to rid itself "of anything Macedo-esque," including the ad agency. A second executive speculated Mr. Eastwood may be interested in talking to Siltanen/Keehn, El Segundo, Calif., since he knew its principals when they were creatives on Nissan at Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day.

Staff write Alice Z. Cuneo contributed to this report.

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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