Inside The Hyundai Pitch

BusinessWeek has a revealing behind-the-scenes look at the Hyundai pitch won by Goodby.
Regular AdPulp readers know that I have a personal interest in this as the owner of a new Santa Fe. I’m a brand advocate.
So did Hyundai make the right decision, in my humble opinion? Let’s take a look at the pitched campaigns:

Siltanen & Partners: This Los Angeles-based agency had an inside track on winning the account because it sold a campaign, themed Smart Move, to Hyundai in March. Siltanen signed actor Kelsey Grammer as the voice for its TV ads and created a series of ads that compared Hyundai models to much more expensive brands like Lexus and Land Rover, making the point that the Hyundai in many instances outperformed or had more standard features than vehicles $10,000 to $20,000 more expensive.

Kelsey Grammer? I guess Baby Bob wasn’t available this time. Sorry, I didn’t care for this. Comparing the number of cupholders in Land Rovers vs. Hyundais isn’t all that “Smart” an idea.

StrawberryFrog: This New York agency tried the riskiest strategy of all the bidders. StrawberryFrog understood Hyundai’s problem perfectly. “It’s like there is a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign on the brand for a whole lot of people,” says Chief Executive Scott Goodson.
Goodson’s team came up with an idea—and a word—it felt Hyundai could own in the marketplace: defog. Huh? Yes, it’s a little out there. But halfway through StrawberryFrog’s pitch, one could see what they were driving at. The idea is summed up in this ad copy: “There’s something unusual about Hyundai drivers, something you may not have noticed. They’re curious. They do their research…more than any other driver. They find the truth. They cut through. They see the world more clearly.”

Okay, I like this idea ’cause I like to think I see the world more clearly than more other people. So it speaks to me. But it’s a bit esoteric so I’m not surprised the client didn’t go for it.

Arnold Worldwide: At the same time the agency was pitching Hyundai, it was also pitching the Volvo account. Arnold believed Hyundai’s strength to be that it offers customers more standard equipment than competitors such as Toyota and Ford Motor at lower sticker prices. The agency wrapped its pitch around the slogan, “Here’s To More.”

“Here’s To More” sounds like a beer ad. Move along, nothing to see here. Arnold won Volvo anyway, so they’re not disappointed.

Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners: KB+P presented the widest array of solutions for Hyundai. In addition to a raft of ads themed around the slogan, “Why Doesn’t Everyone,” the agency created a strategy of social networking, direct marketing, and multicultural and corporate marketing. Some ideas from the pitch stood out.
To get past the baggage that Hyundai’s own logo is associated with its poor-quality past, the agency hatched an idea to break out the letter “Y” from “Why Doesn’t Everyone” and Hyundai’s own name, and turn it into a new graphic icon that overshadows the Hyundai logo.

“Why Doesn’t Everyone?” C’mon, we all know the answer to that–because some people need Hummers to compensate for their small dicks. But KB&P pitched a neat idea of a Hyundai car-sharing program in metro areas, kind of like Flexcar. I wonder if they did that because they’re in New York where owning a car is a pain in the ass.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners: Interestingly, Goodby’s actual slogan, or tagline, bombed with Wilhite and most of the rest of the group. “Have A Nice Car,” Wilhite thought, was too trivial a phrase like, “Have A Nice Day.”
Hyundai, Goodby said in its pitch, should be the brand that cuts through all the noise of car advertising. Speaking about how the rational part of buying a car has been lost in a sea of ad fluff, Goodby wrote in its opening pitch, “Somewhere between winding roads at golden hours and the artist formerly known as John Cougar belting out the vanilla virtues of a mythical America [a knock on Chevy’s current ads], something was lost.” Goodby’s idea, which will surface in its first ads in June, is that Hyundai must create a new voice and environment of total honesty.

Yeah, “Have A Nice Car” is a little mealy-mouthed. But it sounds like they’re cooking up some interesting ideas. We’ll see. I’ll definitely be following this.
UPDATE: On Scott Goodson’s blog and the StrawberryFrog blog, the agency’s strategy is discussed more in-depth:

We are proud of our thinking, we came up with a very focused strategy and target. We call them truth junkies…an ever increasing group of Americans who want the truth. They seek clarity and from what we learned, they will stop at nothing to bring that clarity to all parts of their world and spread open information. We learned that Hyundai owners are at the vanguard of the truth junkies, and that there are millions more looking to join them…

See, it totally works on me. I like the thought of being at the “vanguard of the truth junkies.” Fits me nicely, so I think. And since I forked over a lot of money for a car despite the fact that doesn’t have Toyota’s ingrained reputation, well then hey, maybe I know something a lot of people don’t. I never said I was immune to a good ad message.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. theo kie says:

    It will be interesting to see if time has changed how people think about cars and car advertising. Have we become more rational? Are we, in fact, tired of the myths that fuel our love of cars?
    Back in 1991, Weiden won the Subaru account – a brand with an almost identical problem to Hyundai’s. The agency approached the business with a very similar, rational-minded pitch. W-K then produced some well-executed work that reveled in speaking the “truth” about cars. In fact, a key part of the message echoes Goodby’s notion consumers are sick of slick, image-driven car commercials.
    This campaign tanked. In fact, many argued this “truth” approach took the brand backwards, furthering Subaru’s lack of emotional connection with consumers. There’s a lot more to the story, but Weiden lost the account less than 18 months later.
    It will be interesting to see if times – and the public – have changed.

  2. hyunai already has the ‘rational’ buyers. a rational person can see that you get a lot more value with their cars than others costing thousands more. now, it’s time for hyundai to capture the ’emotional’ buyers. there’s obviously an emotional block for many people when it comes to hyundai. people just can’t seem to make the leap. how do you get past that? not sure, but that’s the kind of campaign they need if they want to move into Toyota/Honda/Nissan territory.