Hyundai Motor America introduces a new, emotional look to its advertising tonight, Nov. 1.
The importer is switching its approach after pushing the more pragmatic message about its 10-year warranty over the past year.
'We know it's time to take the advertising to the next level,' said Dave Weber, vice president of advertising. 'We're trying to mainstream the brand.'
So 2000 model year ads from Bates USA West in Irvine, Calif., use the theme of freedom. In TV spots, songs reinforce the concept, said Mike Robertson, the agency's vice chairman and executive creative director.
'The music has freedom as the theme, but it is not driving the commercials,' he said. 'We're using the freedom the warranty gives you as the main theme.'
The first two spots, one each for the Sonata and Elantra sedans, break tonight during national network prime time. Cable networks also a re a key component, including Hyundai's sponsorship of 'Inside the NBA' on TNT and TBS, as well as MTV, Lifetime, USA and VH-1.
The Sonata commercial uses the song 'I Feel Free' by the rock group Cream; Elantra has 'Freedom' by Jimi Hendrix. The spots for the Accent and the Tiburon arrive early next year. The Tiburon commercial uses The Kinks' 'Set Me Free'; the redesigned, entry-level Accent spot uses Meat Beat Manifesto's 'Prime Audio Soup,' fr om the movie Matrix. The narrator is actress Peri Gilpin, who plays Roz on NBC's 'Frasier.'
A trio of print ads, each with spread and single-page versions, arrives in late November. The magazine buy includes George, Parents, Red book, Men's Fitness Sports Illustrated, Spin and auto buff books.
'Driving is Believing' remains the tag line. Hyundai takes the freedom theme to regional dealer spots, and the commercials continue to use real owners.
Weber sai d the company has come a long way in the past year. Advertising the warranty played a role, but he also cited improved products and quality.
In 1998, 40 percent of Hyundai's dealers sold less than 10 cars monthly. That percentage has dropped to 20 percent so far this year, he said.
Sales through September rose by 68 percent to 121,962 cars vs. a year ago.
Hyundai reduced the number of build combinations from 600 to about 300 by making some popular optio ns standard. The company was able to lower its average customer cash incentive by $600 per car from a year ago, Weber said. Warranty costs slid by 10 percent so far this year and 20 percent per year over the prior two.
A total of 23 percent of Hyundai buyers are already Hyundai owners. That loyalty rate is double that of a year ago and the highest since 1991, Weber said. Buyers now have slightly higher annual household incomes, up $3,000 in the past year to about $39,000.
Buyers with A and B credit ratings accounted for about 70 percent of sales in August; those with C and D ratings accounted for the rest. In August 1998, the percentages were reversed. The switch occurred without Hyundai changing its credit standards.
Mike Lazarus, a former Volkswagen and Mazda dealer, bought a Hyundai dealership in Dearborn, Mich., this year. Lazarus, still a multibrand dealer, predicted Hyundai will duplicate the success of Japanese carmakers in this country in the 1960s. He's pleased quality has improved at Hyundai and has been impressed with management.
Weber said Hyundai knows it still has a long way to go, especially in the area of brand image and getting people to put Hyundai on their shopping lists. 'But we're excited about the momentum,' he said. 'The cache we're trying to create is Hyundai is a smart buy.'