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Advertising Age Announces Their Super Bowl Ad Winner: Hyundai's Big Marketing Idea

Automaker's Assurance Program Spot Won't Win Any Polls, but It Might Actually Move Some Metal - by Jonah Bloom

It won't top any of the many meaningless Super Bowl ad charts, but the best advertising in the big game was Hyundai's "Contract."

The spot itself is not a visual extravaganza like the Coke or Audi spots, nor was it made according to the trite USA Today Super Bowl ad formula -- two parts ha ha, one part whacky, throw in an animal if you have one at hand. The Goodby-made spot simply shows a few different Hyundai models, while a voice-over says:

"Whenever you buy a new car you have to sign a contract, but what about the company selling it to you -- where's their signature? Introducing Hyundai Assurance. Now finance or lease any new Hyundai, and if you lose your income in the next year, you can return it with no impact on your credit. Sound too good to be true? Come and see us, and we'll put it in writing for you. Visit for details."

That, right there, is an honest-to-goodness big marketing idea -- rare at any time, and in particularly short supply in the ad industry's supposed showcase. With the Assurance program, Hyundai confronts the recession head-on and does something tangible to tackle its effects. Not -- like Coke and Pepsi -- by insisting they re-imagine our world as this happy, hopeful place, but by actually eliminating some of the fear around making a big purchase.

The idea was born in an internal meeting at Hyundai's offices in California. "This is a recession of fear," said Joel Ewanick, VP-marketing at Hyundai. "We realized that the elephant in the room was the fear of losing your job. I feel the same way. We all do. The idea of giving people the option to give the car back if they were struggling . . . seemed a great way to make customers comfortable and increase our market share in an economy like this."

Ewanick's team turned to WalkAway, a company founded in Canada that offered an off-the-shelf package to underwrite the effort. WalkAway USA has offered such plans directly to consumers and dealerships before, but never had a major marketer brand the scheme as its own, as Hyundai is doing.

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Jeff Beaver, senior VP-marketing and product management for the company, said the scheme has proved popular with local dealers who've tested it.
"It differentiates them from other local dealers, but it also has the byproduct of creating loyalty. If someone does have to bring their car back . . . they really appreciate the dealer taking it. Some even end up buying a cheaper, secondhand car from the same dealer or, at least, they go back to that dealer later, when their finances have improved."

Assurance was communicated to dealers late last year and then rolled out to consumers in ads which began airing Jan. 3. The ads featured lines such as "We've got your back" and "We're in this together."

But is Assurance moving metal? At press time, January car-sales figures weren't out, although Ewanick expected to be flat year-on-year, which would be a reasonable achievement in a market where others are expected to see double-digit drops. But it's a little early to say. "Dealers have only just started doing their local direct marketing," said Ewanick. "But showroom traffic is definitely rising."

Two of the most frequent responses dealers heard were that people didn't trust it because it was too good to be true, and that they were worried it would hurt their credit scores -- those points are addressed in the Super Bowl spot. Buying in the Bowl shows Ewanick's confidence in Assurance, a program he promises Hyundai will run for at least a year. "Will it be here forever? I hope not. I hope it won't be needed. But we'll run it as long as it is."

"Contract" isn't going to knock Mean Joe Greene off the top of the Super Bowl commercials lists, but it'll surely sell some steel.

Written by Jonah Bloom
Published: February 02, 2009

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Tags: Ad Winner, Advertising Age, Hyundai Assurance, Hyundai Contract, Hyundai's Big Marketing Idea, Super Bowl


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Comment by VJ on February 19, 2009 at 12:10pm
I think the idea could be feasible. However (like the insurance business) Hyundai seems to be has done their homework in the backend, and compared their buying demographic group with potential job losses in this particular demographic. The number what was "spit" out at the end gave them a probability analysis how many "returned cars" they could expect. When your market-share increased around 14% I am sure that you'll be able to swallow let's 2-3% of possible retunrd cars in one year. Ralph, you are right. They are establishing themself pretty well right now in the luxury market segment. BMW and Mercedes competiors dropped immens and you are sseing more and more Hyundai Genesis on the road. Their next big think is to targed the coupe market.
Comment by Al Hall on February 19, 2009 at 10:41am
I've thought about this a lot - I mean a lot. i've read over Hyundai's capaign and I think there is a better one.

With Hyundai they'll take it back, but there is a limit, and let me ask you, "even if I've lost my job, don't i stll need a car?" Good luck getting financing on even a used car now that I've lost my job. I think an extended financing term (where it'll we be pushed out a2 or 3 more years to work the payments down) or suspended payments (if you lose your job, we'll suspend your payments for 6 months and build it into the backend) if you lose a job would be more effective than a buyback. With either of these two, I'm having my pain eased on the financial front at the moment and I can still drive and use my car while I'm busting my hump trying to find a new job. Not worrying about finding another vehicle (realiable used and/or financing) while I'm looking for a job is one less thing for me to worry about. Plus we all know the maintenance and repair on a new car is nill compared to a used one that I could afford now that I'm out of a job!

I'm waiting for someone to come up with something like this.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 9, 2009 at 7:58pm
Hey, so what do you all think would happen if an individual dealer offered "Job-Loss" buy back protection in a major metro market with higher unemployment than the national average?
Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 8, 2009 at 11:15pm

I couldn't agree more, and I also believe that as strange as it may sound, this is the type of marketing that will move Hyundai up-market and build a brand that more Americans who "can afford better" will consider as a serious contender... adding Hyundai to shopping lists they were not on a year ago.
Comment by VJ on February 8, 2009 at 10:11pm
I think it is a smart advertising with a message "we car about you". In todays' time and economy people are looking "what is in for me and what can you do for me". So when you assure something like "We got your back" "we are in this together" it sounds almost like a message from the presedential race "yes we can". Combine this ad message with the PR and the fact that Hyundai could raise their sales by plus 14.3% in January - you have (as a Marketing Director) created what is known as the "Perfect Storm".

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