Super Bowl

Behind Hyundai's Real-Time Super Bowl Ad Production

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As if Hyundai's attempt to shoot, edit and produce a 90-second Super Bowl ad during the game isn't challenging enough, the brand will do it across two continents.

The automaker has revealed more details on its real-time Super Bowl production, which will culminate in a spot running after the final whistle in the first commercial break before the trophy ceremony. The ad -- called "Operation Better" -- will take footage from an undisclosed U.S. military base overseas. Hyundai has arranged for soldiers to watch the game in a high-tech, enclosed pod that attempts to mimic the in-stadium fan experience in Houston.

Hyundai has been teasing the spot with videos starring NFL legends Joe Montana and Mike Singletary. The videos promise that "some of the better moments of the Super Bowl won't only happen on the field."

The Hyundai marketing team, director Peter Berg and lead agency Innocean will finalize the spot in a trailer stationed outside the stadium where they will coordinate with a crew at the military base. What could go wrong? The biggest fear is that something might happen that delays the footage being sent via satellite.

"A couple of Super Bowls ago, all the electricity went out for 35 minutes, so you never know what you are going to get," Eric Springer, chief creative officer at Innocean USA, said in an interview, referring to the 2013 game when power in half of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome went out. But Hyundai has prepared for the worst, including ensuring it has backup generators on hand. The brand has also prepared a traditional spot to fill the 90 seconds just in case something catastrophic happens.

The agency and marketer went through a dry run last Saturday that calmed the nerves of Hyundai Motor North America Chief Marketing Officer Dean Evans. "It went off flawlessly," he said. "The nail-biting for me is over," he added, before Mr. Springer laughingly cut him off and said "mine just started."

"Every other brand that is putting a Super Bowl commercial on has probably had somewhere between 12 and 18 weeks to to shoot, edit, [add] music, go back and forth," Mr. Springer said. "You have that time to really finesse and quite honestly probably over think a bit." (One exception this year: Snickers, which says it will shoot and air its ad live during Super Bowl LI.)

Hyundai's approach "really forces you to get to the core of the idea and keep everybody's feet to the fire on that," Mr. Springer said. "This isn't one of those productions where you say, 'Hey I like that take, let's try another one.' You don't get that option. You have to really know what you are looking for."

Why even bother? Mr. Evans said that Hyundai is trying to "zig while others are zagging." He added that Hyundai wants to stand out, "and that's why I think this format is what sticks out to us."

The automaker went with a military theme because "we owe so much to our troops and that is the one unifier that we have in our country right now," he said. The spot comes amid growing political divisions in the nation, centered most recently by debates over immigration and refugee rights but extending much further. "We are not trying to take any political sides," Mr. Evans said. Hyundai is "really trying to get everyone to rally around some common points, which is patriotism," he said.

The "better" theme continues the "We Make Things Better" brand positioning Hyundai introduced with its 2016 Super Bowl ads ("First Date," "Ryanville," "The Chase"). The platform moves away from rational buying points and into a more emotional pitch of improving people's lives. In the case of the this year's Super Bowl, the brand is trying to make the game a little bit better for a few soldiers.

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