The contemplative campaign, intended to reboot consumers' perceptions of the Hyundai brand, is rich in text that talks about what a car company should be, what constitutes a well-made vehicle and even what branding is really meant for. Ads all have the theme line, "think about it," and direct consumers to thinkaboutit.com.
One newspaper ad reads: "The next great car company. Are we nuts?" and then offers up two newspaper columns of text. "Granted, there was a time when a question like this would have been met with a swift 'well, uh, actually yes.'"
Some of the ads--comprising print, outdoor, Internet and other elements--don't even mention the Hyundai brand at first, while at least one makes droll reference to Hyundai's bad old days. The initial three-week set of unbranded ads starting today runs through the end of the month, followed by a second phase of feature-specific ads.
One asks: "When a car company charges for roadside assistance aren't they really helping themselves?" Others make axiomatic statements like: "The logo is there to tell you what the car is, not who you are."
Ads for the next phase of the effort use the same approach to discuss specific vehicle attributes. One says: "New technologies confirm: the best way to avoid an accident is to avoid an accident."
Goodby Silverstein, which became Hyundai's agency this spring, actually initiated the right-brain appeal with a summer campaign, "Duh," which suggested availing oneself of the (just-finished) summer clearance sale would have been a no-brainer.
Joel Ewanick--Hyundai's vice president/marketing, who joined in February from Hyundai's former agency The Richards Group--says the new effort, with its 15-second ads and cagey unwillingness to show the usual beauty shots, may look like a teaser, but it's really a Web-centered campaign.
"At the end of the day, it's meant to drive people to our Web site," he says, which has been redesigned. "The Web site is robust. It will not feel like a car site or a retail site. We are much more informational. At the end of the day, our marketing begins and ends with the Internet."
Ewanick says that last year, 80% of Hyundai purchasers used the Web "in a significant way" in the process of shopping for a Hyundai. "The other thing we know is that a huge percentage of people actually watch TV with a laptop within arms' reach. One in three will do that," he says.
He describes the new effort--comprising seven or eight commercials and 16 print ads--as a mosaic with ads serving as threads in the fabric of the larger story. Ewanick adds that the campaign--if one were to boil it down to an essential message--is intended to inspire confidence in the brand's quality, warranty, safety, service and reputation.
One ad, bound for automotive buff books, shows two sumo wresters squaring off, with the text: "Two warranties enter the ring, one leaves." Hyundai's 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty reignited the brand in 2001. Ewanick says the TV buy includes a lot of sports programming today, with Hyundai advertising in next year's Super Bowl.
Ewanick says the time is right for such a campaign because "Hyundai had a great deal of success over the last four years, going to over 400,000 per year in retail, and the fastest-growing auto company in America, so there's a great deal of momentum built up over the brand. I have conducted a thousand interviews with owners, prospects and even rejecters and, to the person, the one thing you get is, 'I sense something going on with Hyundai--they aren't the company I thought they were.' This campaign is meant to take advantage of that momentum. We just need to give it a push."
The company and agency avoided benchmarking automotive campaigns for the effort. "Car companies put themselves in a box: they say, 'We are selling a car, and we'd better show it.' But you aren't, you are selling experience," Ewanick says, "and the relationship people have with that brand and car. Target, Jet Blue, Apple are really the brands that we are emulating."
The effort precedes Hyundai's largest-ever experiential marketing campaign. "We anticipate taking cars in competent ways out to consumers going to 50 to 70 markets," he says.