Innocean (South Korea)

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Innocean is in effect the inhouse agency of the Hyundai Group, controlled by the carmaker's controlling family. But although that conglomerate remains its biggest client, the agency has extended its offer to a variety of other companies in Korea or neighbouring Asia Pacific markets. In the West, though, it is known primarily for its work for the Hyundai and Kia automobile accounts. Unlike Korea's other "connected" agencies, such as Samsung's Cheil or LG-linked GIIR, Innocean mostly has sole charge of the two car companies' business, working with local partners in only a handful of counties, and it has established a creative team and an international network capable of doing full justice to that responsibility, with outposts in 16 major international markets. Innocean's creative work for Hyundai in particular regularly transcends expectations of what might usually be expected from an inhouse agency. In 2015 it founded Canvas Worldwide, a new joint venture with US-based Horizon Media, to handle media for the Hyundai and Kia brands in North America. At the end of 2017, it brought US advertising for Kia Motors inhouse with the acquisition of local incumbent David & Goliath. Innocean was founded in 2005 by Chung Sung-yi, the daughter of Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo, and she is still connected with the agency as an advisor and its biggest shareholder. Ahn Kun-Hee is now global CEO. In 2015, the agency issued an IPO of part of its equity in Seoul. Gross profit hit KWon 393bn ($347m) in 2017. Non-Hyundai clients accounted for more than a third of Korean revenues, but only a small proportion of international business. In summer 2019, Innocean expanded its global footprint with the acquisition of Australian-based Wellcom Group for around $155m.

Capsule checked 4th October 2018

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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 1st Aug 2019: Innocean has agreed to acquire the Australia-based digital marketing network Wellcom Group for the equivalent of around $155m. The deal strengthens Innocean's digital and social media capabilities and also provides a first foothold in several markets where the Korean company doesn't already have a presence including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Wellcom also has an outpost in the UK and several in both Australia and the US. It will expand Innocean's network to 28 offices spread across 19 countries.

Adbrands Social Media 2nd Jul 2019: "Niro Electrified". I just had the most terrible nightmare. I dreamed agency Innocean got my one-time hero Robert De Niro to dress up as a geriatric skinhead in an ad campaign for Kia Motors, simply because he has the same name as one of the car makers' smaller runabout models. Quick, someone pinch me, I need to wake up! What? What do you mean it wasn't a dream?

Adbrands Social Media 20th May 2019: "Magical Inspirations". So what do ballerinas, footballers, Neil Armstrong, Felix the Cat, a tiger and a meerkat have in common? Nothing whatsoever, but they're all in this extraordinary campaign for Kia Motors in India from local creative consultancy Sideways and house agency Innocean. It arguably makes no sense whatsoever, but is brilliantly imaginative as well as completely hypnotic to watch. The ad is only just penetrating Western markets for the first time, but it's racked up over 230m views on YouTube since it first launched two months ago. If it wasn't for that terrible voiceover we could watch it forever.

Adbrands Social Media 30th Jan 2019: "The Elevator". Kia Motors was one of the first brands to sneak-peek its Super Bowl campaign. It said it would redirect the cash it usually invests in celebrity ambassadors to endow a scholarship fund to "help young people in need get a foothold in higher education." And how about its sister brand Hyundai? Nah, celebrities are good with us, bro. Innocean USA's funny spot puts comic actor Jason Bateman in charge of an elevator to hell. A visit to the car dealer, suggests the ad, is usually worse even than root canal surgery or a vegan dinner party. But not with Hyundai's Shopper Assurance scheme.

Adbrands Social Media 22nd Jan 2019: "Get Mean". Even as I write this sentence, Rafael Nadal is slowly dismantling Frances Tiafoe in the quarter-final of the Australian Open. (Here's hoping a surprise turnaround doesn't force me to rewrite that sentence in an hour or two). The thing with Nadal is that, more perhaps than most of his peers, he seems like a fun guy as well as an awesome athlete. Somehow we can't imagine Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic messing about like this in Innocean's cute spot for Kia Motors, also a major sponsor of both the Australian Open and Nadal personally. Admittedly, he's not prepared to go quite as far as most of the other vehicle ventriloquists here, every one of them clearly the biggest show-off in any given room, but he gives it a good go.


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