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Kia Motors America breaks its first national campaign on cable TV tonight, a $25 million push as it wraps up the regional rollout started in 1994.

Kia said this year it expects to double its ad budget from the $37 million Competitive Media Reporting recorded in 1997.

The South Korean car importer will begin the push with two existing ads for its Sephia small car and two for the Sportage sport-utility vehicle, from Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco.

The commercials tout Kia's actual 200,000-mile endurance drives and tests in rental fleets. The brand is positioned as quality, affordable and approachable.

:30S IN JUNE: 600

"Cable is very targeted and very efficient," said Dick Macedo, VP-marketing and sales at Kia.

The cable buy for June alone is for 600 30-second ad units. Ads for the more male-targeted Sportage will air on ESPN and CNN Sports.

Mr. Macedo said the car marketer is negotiating for print advertising via co-branding, but declined to name the partner being considered.

Kia also is the official sponsor of MTV's "Drive Through America" show, which debuts today and features the best sights and sounds of the road, such as the Grand Canyon.

MTV is traveling around the U.S. in Kia's new two-door Sportage convertible, which will appear in 20 segments of the show, each to air four times. Kia will advertise during the program.

"We get brand visibility and vehicle visibility," Mr. Macedo said.

Ads for the new convertible are set to break in July and will go into the rotation.

The marketer reported earlier this month that it had sold 31,306 vehicles through May vs. 16,704 a year ago during that same period. In calendar 1997, Kia said it sold 55,325.

Kia now has 432 dealers, which Mr. Macedo said should reach 500 by yearend. The only remaining major markets to open for dealerships are Detroit, Minneapolis and Milwaukee; those are set to open in October.


Mr. Macedo said dealers in Minneapolis with other brands, contacted recently by Kia, gave the brand a warm reception, "showing there's still some demand out there for us despite problems with our [South Korean] parent."

Creditor banks of Kia Motors Corp., Seoul, now in bankruptcy, are expected to decide by the end of June how a public auction for the company will be handled, Automotive News reported last week.

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