Hyundai rolls Richards work

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Hyundai Motor America's first campaign from its new creative agency, Richards Group, Dallas, depicts Hyundai owners winning at life.

"Win" is the ad tagline of the more than $75-million, fourth-quarter media blitz breaking Oct. 17 on national TV. The buy includes local TV and newspapers for regional dealer ad groups.

The four-year-old "Driving is believing" tagline "was a little apologetic, a challenger's mentality" that asked prospects to "give us a chance," said Paul Sellers, Hyundai's director-marketing communications. "We want to make Hyundai an aspirational brand that resonates with people and make it a brand they want to own."

Hyundai will spend $200 million plus in national and regional dealer media next year, and close to that in 2002, Mr. Sellers said.

Richards bested Hyundai's sole U.S. agency, Cordiant Communication Group's Bates USA West, Irvine, Calif., in both the national and regional creative dealer group pitches, which followed the marketer's early 2002 unbundling of media planning and buying from Bates to Aegis Group's Carat North America. Bates is credited with introducing Americans to the South Korean importer in 1986 and, since 1999, rebuilding it into a sales powerhouse. Richards had a tough act to follow.

Richards' effort is one of two directions presented during the pitch earlier this year, said Dale Hruby, a principal at the agency who declined to discuss the other direction. The campaign is the result of extensive discussions with owners, non-owners, market researchers and more than 100 Hyundai dealers.

The research revealed Hyundai owners love how the cars fit in with their lives. That dovetailed with research that revealed Americans are less focused on material goods and more concerned about family and friends.

"We saw these themes converging" with consumers becoming more "enlightened and uncompromising about what matters in life," said Roger Baxter, account planning director at Richards. "I don't know if any brand [other than Hyundai] has aligned their brand with that. I think you'll see advertising grow more sensitive to that mentality."

The eight national TV spots represent Hyundai's biggest unified body of work, Mr. Sellers said. Each national spot depicts a single vignette for a Hyundai owner winning at life, sometimes in small ways. A mom driving the XG350 sedan in one spot turns on the seat warmer on a balmy day; it turns out to be for her ice-skating daughter who is seen taking a series of spills inside a rink. "When you do more than you have to, you win," the narrator says.

The agency also created four spots for the regional dealer groups. The humorous commercials focus on buyers in Hyundai showrooms who are surprised at the features they'll get for their money. One spot shows a male prospect for the Sonata sedan wondering if he needs side airbags, before he imagines a giant promotional doughnut rolling down a hill aimed at his car.

substantial growth

The brand sold just over 90,000 cars in 1998, but started posting dramatic sales growth the following year shortly after introducing and advertising "America's best warranty." Vehicle quality and a spiffier lineup also contributed. Through September 2002, it sold 297,336 vehicles for the year, 14% more than a year ago, according to Automotive News. Mr. Sellers said the brand has targeted sales of 500,000 by 2005 and its first U.S. plant is due to open in Alabama that year.

The perception of brand Hyundai has improved dramatically and is at its highest since its 1986 entry, said James Hall, VP at consultancy AutoPacific. "Consideration for the brand is still relatively low, but look at the [sales] volume they're doing without high consideration."

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