Details, Schmetails. Welcome to the 21st Century, Hyundai!

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AdReview earnestly tries to be timely, but this week it's hard. Our command-and-control center happens to be situated within seven miles of a battleground state, so for the past 10 days, we have seen commercials for only two advertisers: Barack Obama and the Hyundai Genesis.

Absolute saturation is not all they have in common. Wall Street's implosion has made both basically irrelevant. Amid the economic crisis, ads or no ads, Obama can't lose. And ads or no ads, Genesis can't win -- not because it's a Hyundai but because it's a car.

Marketer: Hyundai
stars
Agency: Initiative Media, Los Angeles
Four years ago, such a thing as this Hyundai Genesis widget was nearly unimaginable. But will people find it useful enough to make it viral? We don't think so. See for yourself.
Nobody, but nobody is buying wheels right now -- not even affordably luxurious ones that go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Forget Genesis. The auto marketplace is about Exodus.

In times such as these, making car ads -- and reviewing them -- is an academic exercise. So let's look not at the multizillion-dollar TV campaign but focus instead on something very, very small: the Hyundai Genesis widget.

There it sits on your desktop, say, offering all kinds of goodies: Genesis video you can't see on TV, plus aggregated news and sports. Should you crave more info about the car, it connects you to the Hyundai website. All in all, pretty good.

A few misgivings follow, sheepish as we are to share them. At this moment in marketing history, complaining on the margins about a perfectly functioning widget is pretty much like flying with the Wright brothers and complaining about the seats. Four years ago, such a thing as this widget was nearly unimaginable.

In a world of chaos, with the broadcast and print business models teetering on a precipice, and an online universe struggling to monetize audience, we have long believed that display advertising is decreasingly the solution to anything. For years, we've told anyone who will listen that direct links between marketers and consumers will be forged online but not necessarily through video ads or banners.

As to how, well, imagine the AdReview staff in a group shrug. Beats the hell out of us. But don't bet against widgets. These portable mini-applications aren't just ads; they're software, loaded with functionality (and/or entertainment value) and embeddable on desktops, home pages, Facebook pages, mobile and so on. For now, at least, they are the highest expression of the electronic -- if not quite Platonic -- ideal. They give you something you like, keep the brand name in front of you and connect you directly to those who have something to sell. On top of that, because they are portable, they are potentially viral.

Not this one, though, we'd guess.

Oh, the aggregator function works great. With a click, you get top stories from The Wall Street Journal or SI.com or Concierge magazine (the last two representing "performance" and "luxury" -- get it?). If you're into watching test-track stuff, the video window also gives you a peek at the car in action. But while the media choices may index high against the target, news aggregation and test-drive video are an odd match. And don't news junkies have Google News, or other top-stories aggregators on their desktops already? Just sayin'.

Finally, while the link to Hyundai.com is de rigueur, what about a link to my local Hyundai dealer, where I could actually see the vehicle or, you know, if the world weren't coming apart at the seams, buy one?

But once again, these are mere details. We'd rather applaud Hyundai -- via Initiative Media, Los Angeles, Gigya and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco -- for signing on to the 21st century. Sure, the company purchased a whole lot of gross ratings points, but it clearly understands: If the Exodus ever ends, marketing the Genesis will not necessarily be about Numbers.