Hyundai taps Jason Bateman, Mindy Kaling to push Tucson SUV in largest-ever campaign

The automaker is trying to make up ground in the hot-selling compact SUV segment

Published On
Apr 29, 2021

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In the automotive business, few marketing battles are as important—or intense—as those in the compact SUV segment. Brands including Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue have long used big-budget campaigns to stand out in what has become one of the hottest-selling categories in the entire industry. 

Starting today, Hyundai is trying to muscle into the race with what it describes as the company’s largest-ever ad campaign for the Tucson, which has lagged in the segment. 

Ads from Innocean feature a range of celebrities—including Jason Bateman, Mindy Kaling and National Basketball Association star Kawhi Leonard—who will soon be popping up in TV and digital ads as part of a marketing blitz for the newly redesigned 2022 model. Hyundai and its media agency Canvas also lined up integrations with National Geographic, Fox’s “Masked Singer” and ESPN’s “30 for 30,” as well as buys on TikTok and plenty of outdoor advertising. 

“You will see us absolutely everywhere,” promises Angela Zepeda, chief marketing officer at Hyundai Motor America, calling the 2022 Tucson “one of the most important launches in Hyundai’s history.” She declined to reveal total spending but confirmed it was the automaker’s largest campaign ever. “Honestly, Tucson has not gotten the emphasis with dollars in the past, and we really need to raise awareness with the vehicle,” she says.

The effort, called “Question Everything,” includes a TV ad directed by Bryan Buckley that shows Bateman, Kaling, Leonard and other celebs pondering things like “Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?” and “if you enjoy wasting time, is it really wasted?” The spot ends with a scene showing Hyundai designers taking the same inquisitive approach to the Tucson, while spotlighting one of the vehicle’s unique features: Headlights assimilated seamlessly within the grille.

Bateman has been with the Hyundai since starring in a 2019 Super Bowl ad. Since then, he has served as the automaker’s voiceover, but has not appeared in another ad until now because of pandemic shooting challenges last year, Zepeda says. “He was perfect to put in this spot,” she says, adding that his persona was a fit for “asking life’s silly questions.”

“But then we drill down on the deeper questions we asked as a company on how to make this car, that has been great, to make it even better,” she adds.

Other celebrities in the campaign include singer and actress Becky G, restaurateur Giada De Laurentiis, and designer and TV personality Nate Berkus.

Playing catch-up

Hyundai is banking on a host of new design upgrades to catch up in the compact SUV race. Styling touches include so-called “parametric dynamics” that the automaker describes as having a “kinetic, jewel-like surface detailing that emphasizes Tucson’s distinct identity in a crowded SUV segment.”

Hyundai during the first quarter ranked eighth by sales in the U.S. compact SUV segment, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Tucson sales grew 40 percent in the quarter to 33,147 vehicles, well behind the top-selling Toyota RAV4, which delivered 114,255 units during the period. The Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 all outsold the Tucson. The U.S. compact SUV category continues to be on fire with overall first-quarter sales rising 9.4 percent to 628,199 deliveries.

SUVs offer "so much practicality and versatility,” says Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book owner Cox Automotive. “For older buyers, it’s just easier to get in and out, and for younger buyers it is much easier to put child safety seats in and out.”

Hyundai’s new campaign targets those younger buyers with efforts including a “Question Everything” TikTok challenge. The “Masked Singer” integration includes an interview segment branded “Rearview Mirror.” While the National Geographic deal includes a new digital hub called “Outside Academy” that includes virtual tours of the Zion, Yosemite and Great Smoky Mountains national parks. 

“Combining technology with creativity, we’re bringing audiences immersive ways to explore some of the most awe-inspiring national parks—whether they’re at home or visiting the locations in person—and seamlessly integrating Hyundai’s vehicles into the experience,” Andrew Messina, senior VP of Disney Advertising Sales, said in a statement. (National Geographic Partners LLC  is a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society.)

Hyundai also today released a behind-the-scenes video of the TV ad.