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Meet Angela Zepeda of Hyundai Motor America in Orange County – Fountain Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angela Zepeda.

Angela, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in Orange County, California, and all through my growing up years, I dreamed of moving to New York and becoming a fashion designer. As I got closer to graduating from high school, my parents made it clear they hated this idea for me and I ended up going to school locally at Cal State University, Fullerton. While disappointed, I did make the very fortunate choice to focus my studies in Communications/Advertising. A good compromise of commerce and creativity.

After college, I began my career in advertising and started for a small firm and soon after landed at Foote, Cone, and Belding working on the Mazda account. Like everyone in advertising, I started at the bottom but quickly worked my way up. After being there for several years, the Mazda account was resigned due to a merger FCB had with Bozell, who had the Chrysler business. What seemed like very bad news in the moment ended up being the best thing to happen to me, as I made the leap to work in Los Angeles at Team One on the Lexus account.

From there, I had the opportunity to work at some of LA’s most prestigious agencies, including TBWA/Chiat Day, Rapp Collins, and Campbell Ewald, where I was EVP, President, and Managing Director for almost 12 years running the LA office. It was at CE that I did some of the best work of my career and am most proud of the new business we acquired during those years, including Covered California, Ghirardelli Chocolates, Chicken of the Sea, California Association of REALTORS®, Energy Upgrade California, Western Governors University, PIMCO Financial Services, LifeLock, and Pasolivo Olive Oil, to name a few.

While at Campbell Ewald, I made the decision to return to school and earned my MBA at USC. While not a typical choice for someone in advertising, it was becoming more clear that all of our clients had advanced degrees and I felt it was time for me to also be as credentialed in my senior role.

However, after graduating from USC, I felt I was ready for a bigger role and took a CEO position at Quigley-Simpson, a smaller, independently owned agency. After spending a year at Quigley, I decided I was ready to work closer to home and mitigate the long commute and landed at INNOCEAN in Huntington Beach as their SVP of Business Development.

INNOCEAN is the agency of record for Hyundai and was in need of expanding their portfolio beyond the car business. After working on new business for about two years, the opportunity to run the Hyundai account became available to me and I jumped at the chance to immerse myself back into the automotive business.

While I loved being at the agency and running the Hyundai account, about a year and half in the role, another opportunity presented itself when I was offered the Chief Marketing Officer position at Hyundai by Hyundai’s CEO, Jose Munoz, when the previous CMO left for another company.

As I had been working as I like to say “on the other side of the glass” with our previous CMO (as INNOCEAN is part of the Hyundai ecosystem of affiliate companies and is essentially an extension of the Hyundai marketing department) I was very comfortable moving into the role. However, moving from an all-agency background to client-side, let alone a complex automotive manufacturing company, is not a common one. However, being in the position to be part of Jose’s larger executive team, I had been deeply immersed in the business and was leading the development of the marketing solutions to help Hyundai achieve those business goals.

I began as CMO on October 21, 2019, and Hyundai finished 2019 very strongly with YOY retail gains. We had everything going in our favor to have a strong 2020, but all of that changed when COVID-19 happened in March. While it has been a challenging year, the team and the structure we had in place was prepared to deal with the unknowns of the pandemic with good success. It’s been an incredible experience that took great collaboration across the organization and our partners. My previous role at INNOCEAN helped bridge that collaboration even further with Hyundai expecting to come through 2020 as one of the top OEM’s to garner YOY retail gains in the industry.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Overall, it’s been a smooth ride but perhaps that’s only in hindsight! Like everyone, not everything I had wished for came true or came when I wanted them to, starting with not going to New York and becoming a fashion designer. For those who know me today, fashion, art, design – these are all still passions of mine. But, life took me down a different path and I found that I have good business instincts and love the work in finding creative solutions to meet business goals. I ended up in a place that I didn’t see for myself in those early years.

While I had some incredible doors open for me and opportunities presented when I least expected them, I didn’t get every job I interviewed for (okay, it was one job, which was at David and Goliath in the mid-90’s, which is now very funny as D&G is owned by INNOCEAN and I have become close with David Angelo now with our partnership) and I have been passed over for promotions. I was a little late in becoming a President, a little late in becoming a CMO. But I did get there and again, in hindsight, I was very well prepared for these roles when they materialized. I walked into these roles with a lot of confidence, which as a woman executive (I was the first woman in the C-suite at Hyundai) my experience and background firmly place me at the table. The struggles made me stronger and gave me patience and understanding that hard work does pay off.

Please tell us about Hyundai Motor America.
Hyundai Motor America is part of the Hyundai Motor Group, a South Korean-based automotive company, manufacturing a full-line of vehicles including sedans, hybrids, crossovers, and SUV’s. Hyundai Motor Group is a unique OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in that it owns the entire supply chain ecosystem, from the iron ore mines in West Australia to the steel plant in South Korea, to the distribution and logistic companies, financing and advertising firms.

In my role as CMO, I am responsible for leading and developing the marketing plans and strategies to help achieve our overall business and financial goals for the company.

Hyundai is an incredible and resilient company that was founded by Chung Ju-Yung in 1947, who wanted to build a company that would give jobs and a better life to the people of South Korea for themselves and future generations.

This spirit infuses everything we do at Hyundai, as it is still seen as a challenger brand in the United States, but what started with just one car in 1986 in the U.S., today is leading some of the biggest growth in the industry with our class-leading safety, technology and services across a full-line of beautifully designed cars and SUV’s.

As a company, we are continually pushing to do better. Under the new leadership of our CEO, Jose Munoz, Hyundai is primed for success. We are underway with a new strategy and plan to achieve 1M unit sales by 2023, which is aggressive growth even under normal circumstances but the tenacity of the team and collaboration across the organization is a unique structure that leans on the power of “one team” and we are confident in achieving this goal.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I have many great memories from my childhood but I think the best memory I have is the summers spent in Southern California. My mother loved the beach and sitting in the sun and we would spend every day at the beach during the summer. They were great, fun carefree days and definitely marks the life I had growing up in a beautiful place like Orange County.

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Image Credit:

The image of our Hyundai building, I believe was a corporate photo.

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