Power Players 2009

Hyundai's Joel Ewanick Is Ad Age's No. 14 Power Player

Korean Carmaker Takes Recession Head on -- and Is Rewarded

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Last Year
THE POWER: Hyundai flexed its marketing muscles this year, assaulting the U.S. with glitzy, high-profile TV buys, including a beefed-up presence on the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards broadcasts. Joel Ewanick, VP-marketing, put the word out that the automaker planned to be very aggressive when other carmakers were pulling back on advertising and brand-building. The U.S. arm of the South Korean company became a trendsetter by introducing Hyundai Assurance, letting consumers return their new cars if they lost their jobs. The marketer teamed with Passenger to launch Think Tank, a private, online customer community to gather insight on marketing initiatives and product development. Rather than slash vehicle prices and advertise hefty incentives, in early July Hyundai introduced the Assurance Gas Lock program that guarantees buyers the locked-in gas price of $1.49-a-gallon for a year.

THE NUMBERS: U.S. market share jumped to 4.4% in the first nine months of 2009 from 3.1% in the same year-ago period. And in September, while the industry suffered a 22% sales drop in a post-Clunkers hangover, Hyundai increased its new-vehicle tally by 27% to 31,511 units. Measured-media spending for the first half of 2009 dropped 2.7% to $238 million. Full-year 2008 measured spending was $571 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Chris Perry, senior manager-national marketing communications and Chris Hosford, VP-corporate communications.

THE CHALLENGE: The marketer's move upmarket isn't assured, as it will have to persuade Americans to plunk down a projected $60,000 for its priciest model, the Equus full-size luxury sedan, when it arrives next summer. Not all Hyundai touches have turned to gold. The 2009 model year was the last for the Entourage minivan -- which just arrived in 2007 -- due to slow sales.

THE AGENCIES: Hyundai moved its media account to Interpublic 's Initiative early this year after a review. In the spring, Hyundai moved its national creative account without a pitch from Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to Innocean Worldwide Americas, the Irvine, Calif., office of the automaker's in-house global agency subsidiary. Innocean oversees U.S. media planning, buying, promotions, research, media auditing and accountability services.

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