Hyundai goes apocalyptic on Super Bowl broadcast

Automaker deviates from strategy to make a splash

Chris Powell January 29, 2013

Automaker deviates from strategy to make a splash

Hyundai will join Beyoncé on the Canadian Super Bowl telecast. The Canadian arm of the Korean automaker will air a one-off TV commercial during the halftime portion of Sunday’s NFL championship game, which attracted 16 million Canadian viewers last year.

“Because our brand is really targeted to the masses – we’re not a niche brand – this is a perfect stage for us to get out and reach a very broad target audience,” said John Vernile, vice-president of marketing for Hyundai. “To attract almost 16 million Canadians in one viewing is phenomenal.”

Created by Innocean Worldwide Canada, the 60-second “Gaspocalypse” spot, which showcases the Sonata Hybrid, is not aligned with the auto brand’s current positioning.

The spot will run on a day when TV viewers are as receptive to commercials as they are the programming, said Vernile.

Gary Westgate, senior VP and executive creative director for Innocean, said the objective is straightforward: Get consumers to like the Hyundai brand. “This is one of the very few moments in a year where consumers are actually seeking messages from advertisers, and it’s a really great opportunity to leave a good impression,” he said.

While the commercial underscores the styling and engineering that are the pillars of the Hyundai brand, the departure from the current creative brand strategy was a deliberate move reflecting the Super Bowl’s reputation as a showcase for the best TV commercials, said Vernile.

“I feel that Canadian viewers are somewhat getting ripped off by other advertisers that run their normal ads during the Super Bowl,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s what this event is about. I would not be on the Super Bowl unless we were doing unique creative.”

The “Gaspocalypse” spot was shot over two chilly mid-January days in the Mojave Desert outside Los Angeles. The days involved a 3 a.m. wakeup call, followed by a two-and-a-half hour drive into the desert and a hectic day of shooting before the sun went down around 5 p.m. followed by a long drive back to the hotel. “There was just no room for error whatsoever,” said Westgate.

Directed by Benji Weinstein of Steam Films/Tool of North America, the spot features a Sonata driver being chased by a group of menacing villains straight out of the Max Max movies, complete with Frankenstein-looking cars that feature an assortment of “after-market” additions. The chase comes to an abrupt end when the pursuers’ vehicles run out of fuel.

The creative concept was meant to showcase the Sonata’s exceptional fuel economy in an entertaining, action-packed way, said Vernile. “We had a script that delivered on the own-able attribute for the Sonata Hybrid, which is great fuel economy, so we needed the industry’s best to bring it to life.”

Westgate said the spot was selected from “several” potential creative approaches. The Sonata Hybrid, he said, proved to be “one of the richer areas” for a commercial idea.

“Gaspocalypse” was originally conceived as a 30-second spot, said Westgate, but gradually morphed into a longer commercial. “We looked at a 30 versus a 60, and there was just no comparison,” he said. “It was just more attention-getting. It gets viewers far more involved in the story, so it’s a bit more intrusive and memorable.”

The spot debuted today on Hyundai Canada’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, and is being supported through a 15-second teaser ad mimicking a movie trailer appearing on various web sites.

Hyundai Canada first began appearing in the Super Bowl in 2010, but has traditionally opted for 30-second spots (it aired two separate 30s in 2010, for example, and aired one 30-second spot twice during the 2012 telecast).

The Sonata Hybrid is part of what Vernile calls Hyundai’s “premium car strategy, alongside the Genesis and Equus. “These are cars that are very unexpected within the Hyundai brand,” said Vernile. “People don’t expect Hyundai, as a maker of good value small cars, to have some cars that can go toe-to-toe with some of the best vehicle manufacturers in the world.”