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Will Hyundai fish and cut Bates?

Is there a chance Hyundai Motor America will replace Bates on its $90 million-plus account? "It depends on their ability and capabilities," new prez Juhn Myung-Huhn says today in Automotive News. "If Bates wants a long-term relationship, they are going to have to work harder than before. There's no reason to stay with Bates, but they've been working hard so far." Juhn believes image advertising is central to Hyundai's comeback. The boss bets he can drive U.S. sales by 2000 back to the '88 peak of 264,000 cars. Sales are just half that level now.

Studio accounts are so glamorous

Saatchi's now-ended relationship with MGM wasn't always grand. The studio earlier this year had the agency buy Super Bowl time to promote a flick called "Hoodlum." But then the release was pushed to late February, so MGM canceled the buy. Then the film's producer put the buy back on. The Thursday night before the game, MGM again ordered Saatchi to unload the time. "Hoodlum" now is set for September release. Saatchi/Torrance boss Joe Cronin has adorned his wall with a reminder of his fulfilling experience with MGM: an empty frame.

Is this a gr-r-reat country, or what?

QVC recently served up 16-ounce boxes of the new Kellogg's Cocoa Frosted Flakes, signed and numbered by Tony the Tiger. But wait, that's not all. QVC threw in four cereal bowls. In less than 10 minutes, QVC sold 3,000 boxes of the cereal at $18.95 a (snap, crackle) pop.

GM sets its sites on Mullen

Mass. shop Mullen, hired in January to handle GM's used-car account, now has another assignment: a study of ways GM can improve its Web site. Mullen's traveling the U.S. interviewing a dozen car and Web journalists. Among its questions: Are car pictures on the Web engaging enough, or should the site be more virtual? What would be the ideal auto Web site?

Absolut hilarity

Absolut this week heralds the end of its venerable bottle campaign. "The most popular ad campaign of all time need not run for all time," reads the headline in page ads in USA Today and The New York Times. The ad runs tomorrow. April 1. Readers who call an 800-number will learn it's an April Fools' joke. Cheers.

Si of relief . . . Ziff-Davis

Si Newhouse's pug, Nero, went to the hospital earlier this month after choking on a bone. He (Nero) is going to pull through. . . . Location, location, location. Team One, housed on the seventh floor of a building near LAX, picked up the new account of Air New Zealand, housed on the ninth floor. . . . Ziff-Davis is scouting for an agency for a new $2 million to $5 million brand account. Blazing Paradigm in San Francisco, in line to get some project work, could also be a contender for the brand account.

Compiled by Bradley Johnson with news from Alice Z. Cuneo, Scott Donaton, Laura Petrecca, Mark Rechtin, Chuck Ross and Jean Halliday.

Got an Adage? Tell Brad by phone, (213) 651-3710, ext. 111; fax, (213) 655-8157;