Saatchi handles Hyundai's Indian debut

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BOMBAY -- South Korea's Hyundai Motor has roped in India's most popular male actor, Shah Rukh Khan, to endorse its brand in the run-up to the debut of its first locally-made product in India, the Santro small car.

Though the automaker has not confirmed the amount paid to Mr. Khan for the twoyear contract, a local unconfirmed media report in the Business Standard newspaper puts the deal at $250,000, the highest ever for such a celebrity endorsement for a car.

Sista Saatchi & Saatchi, New Delhi, has been named ad agency on the account and will launch a series of 30- and 60-second commercials featuring Mr. Khan and an unnamed Korean actor.

The campaign, which will first focus on Hyundai's corporate history and then on its 1,000cc Santro car for India, will air on the Zee Network channels, Asianet, Sony Entertainment Television and state-run broadcaster Doordarshan's National Network and Doordarshan Metro services.

Hyundai entered India about two years ago with plans to invest $1.1 billion in the domestic automobile market. Its Santro model, whose price is still undisclosed, is a small-car challenger to the best-selling Maruti Suzuki 800 and its costlier 1000cc Maruti Suzuki Zen sibling. Maruti's 800cc model accounts for three out of five cars sold in India, and the automaker itself boasts an estimated 80+% market share. Maruti is a joint venture owned 50% by Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. and 49.75% by the Indian government.

Hyundai becomes the second carmaker to use a celebrity to endorse its car, after Mahindra Ford India, a joint venture of Ford Motor Corp. and Bombay-based utility vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra. Leander Paes, India's most popular tennis player, was signed up last year to endorse the Ford Escort.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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