Hyundai increases spending to $200M

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Hyundai Motor America plans to up ad spending next year to $200 million, according to an executive familiar with the plan, which, combined with its regional dealer group outlay, will raise its total to $400 million, according to a second executive.

President-CEO Robert Cosmai would not confirm figures, but said the carmaker was readying "a pretty hefty lift" in its 2004 ad budget. That's a radical shift from this year, since Mr. Cosmai said the marketer's regional dealer ad groups are carrying the bulk of the brand's fourth-quarter media weight. He said Hyundai decided in early summer to cut national fourth-quarter spending and its media buying shop, Aegis' Carat, Los Angeles, didn't buy in the upfront for Hyundai.

Through August, Hyundai spent $148 million and its regional ad groups spent $63 million in measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Mr. Cosmai's 2004 ad plans include a brand campaign early in the year, a relaunch of the swanky XG350 sedan and stepped-up budgets for three core models: Elantra, Sante Fe and Sonata. Independent Richards Group, Dallas, won the national and regional dealer creative in 2002.

half million by `06

Hyundai wants to sell 1 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2010 and reach the half-million mark in 2006. Mr. Cosmai said he's on track to hit this year's 400,000-unit target; according to the company, sales through October were 337,862 units, up over 4% from a year ago.

The shop's first regional spots last fall coincided with Hyundai's first monthly sales drop in 17 months, alarming dealers, but Mr. Cosmai said dealers "had high praise" for the upcoming ads. Richards' Dale Hruby, a principal, said the new work was shot on a set with a white background. As a single model spins, it changes colors and different people interact with the vehicle's features.

An upcoming brand spot featuring the Sante Fe sport utility shows people driving steamrollers and earthmovers around town and asks "just how big should an SUV be?" Mr. Hruby said another spot shows the Sonata sedan on a road with cars that only have the front end to emphasize its affordability. Both, he said, tout "America's Best Warranty" and tell the value story.

One Hyundai dealer said the new brand ads "clearly make the cars the stars of the ads. We got away from esoteric foolishness."

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