South Korean car brand Hyundai is currently undergoing a major transformation through innovation, design and leadership in electrification. With IONIQ 5 winning World Car of the Year 2022, it’s a proud time for the company. A ‘new dawn’, if you will.
An evergreen quirk of the brand is that there’s a lot of variation in how people in the UK pronounce its name. It’s not something Hyundai’s ever worried about, but in its latest advertising campaign, agency INNOCEAN UK used it as material for a series of comedy scenarios. Brought to life by FAMILIA director Jeroen Mol, this selection of scenes aims to build brand awareness through humour and the introduction of the global pronunciation: ‘Hyun-day’.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Dom Sweeney, head of creative at INNOCEAN UK, and Jeroen Mol, director at FAMILIA, to hear how they pitched the comedy just right.
LBB> Hyundai has done advertising about how its name is pronounced before. But never quite this expertly, I think. Where did the idea begin?
Dom> It’s a brief that we’ve been talking about for as long as I can remember, but never found the right moment. Goodby Silverstein & Partners did some great work introducing Hyundai to the American market, with their ‘It’s Hyundai, like Sunday’ campaign. In the UK, there’s always been variation in how different people say it. Which is fine, but with IONIQ 5 winning 2022 World Car of the Year, now seemed like the perfect time to introduce the UK to the global way of saying Hyundai. In the briefing one of the account team members mentioned using Amazon Alexa. Fenton, the creative, took that thought and ran with it.
LBB> How did that evolve into the navigation idea?
Dom> The main point of the campaign is to use the pronunciation and humour to draw attention to the brand’s growth and success, not to try to force people to change how they say the brand name. It would have been a bit rich anyway, as we’ve been making ads with the original pronunciation for well over 10 years! Voice recognition is everywhere. We didn’t want the person speaking to be the butt of the joke. We thought it was funnier to imagine a world where it’s the technology that goes wrong, and that it was important to not take ourselves too seriously. We’re very lucky to have clients who appreciated that. Richard, Keanon and Raf were brilliant throughout the whole process and trusted us to get the tone right.
LBB> You must have written a lot of ideas for misheard destinations. How did you whittle them down to what's in the script?
Dom> Initially the script was just shop names, and we kept them all very close to the pronunciation ‘High ‘n’ Dye’. I think we had a laundrette called ‘high and dry’ and a fantasy board game shop called Iron Dice. Jeroen really pushed the idea and the humour, so that the destinations weren’t just shops and the wordplay was slightly different each time. So, we had Iron Guy the statue and a High End Pie van. Thinking up the destinations was a real team effort. We must have come up with well over 50, to the point where you’re ‘Hy-un-dai’ blind - I believe they call it semantic satiation, when you say a word so many times that it loses any meaning. Between myself, Fenton, Jeroen, Emma our producer and Emily, who was working on the social media creative, we ended up with five that the client was happy with.
A couple of favourites that never made the cut – Iron Di, an all-in female wrestling champion real name Diana Crabtree. Hawaiian Spy, a Hawaiian-themed spywear shop. And Hay und Di, German purveyors of straw and 20-sided-dice.
LBB> Jeroen, what did you think when you first saw the script?
Jeroen> Great idea! simple and effective, as most good scripts are.
Concept-wise it cuts right to the chase of how Hyundai is pronounced globally, meanwhile creating comedy by the ‘soundalike’ spots the main characters wind up at. The script instantly got my attention and within a few hours I had written various bizarre and unique scenes which I hoped to use to add that little bit extra.
During the research phase of the treatment process, I was discussing with FAMILIA’s inhouse data and strategy team that it was important to introduce the global way of saying Hyundai in a positive way, and that we repeat it a few times at the end of the film so people become accustomed to it. This simple change to the script helped ensure our film would be as effective as possible.
LBB> What were your thoughts on how you'd bring these places to life?
Jeroen> We had quite a long list of ‘soundalikes’. Our aim was to find a right balance between ones that almost sound the same, and ones that were a bit off, but added to the comedy.
Visually we wanted to find a nice balance between reality and the bizarre. A heightened reality if you like. From a tie shop which specialises in Hawaiian design to a luxury pie and mash store. We had lots of fun making the worlds our talent ended up in both authentic and ludicrous.
LBB> What was the key to getting the comedy right?
Jeroen> First of all, find the right actors. Ones that could portray a subtle sense of being lost and confused.
Also trying to keep the story plain and the compositions easy to read to allow the viewer a moment to make the connection between the word Hyundai and the name of the place they wound up at.
I also find the moments of silence between the gags are just as important as the joke itself. That confused look, or head turn, adds so much to the overall comedy. We were lucky to find talent with such great neutral comedic timing.
LBB> What were some of the big challenges and how did you get over them?
Jeroen> Not really a big challenge but a very practical and time consuming one. Rain. We shot most of the exteriors double – with and without the characters holding an umbrella. You never know if it will be raining all day so for continuity it’s better to have both options in the edit.
The day of the shoot was the wettest day of the year in the UK. The DOP did an amazing job working around the rain, as did the glam team, who spent most of their time drying the cast.
Dom>There were also the obvious challenges of tight deadlines and budget, Emma and FAMILIA did an amazing job getting the quality on the screen in time. But then that’s the same with most jobs for local markets. But as Jeroen says, the biggest challenge was shooting in the UK in November. I’m not a meteorologist but I’d describe the weather as biblical.
LBB> Dom, are there any details in the finished campaign that you're particularly happy with?
Dom> Making a humorous and human car ad. Having a film that works in 30 seconds. Creating a campaign that works beyond just a TVC, with radio, social and digital as well as websites for all the fake shops. Not to sound too corny though, it makes me incredibly happy to work with good people and have fun doing it.
LBB> And Jeroen, what unique perspective or concept did you add?
Jeroen> I hope it balances between reality and absurdism. Or at least has a flavour of ‘don’t take this too seriously’.