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Cheil Worldwide Adfest South Korea

The ‘promise’ car: How Hyundai’s marketing is helping displaced North Koreans


By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

March 17, 2016 | 3 min read

What happens when you find a technically savvy, creatively minded market facing an ongoing social issue? The blueprint for ‘marketing for good’.

The market in question is South Korea which, according to Playground founder Thomas Hongtack Kim, has citizens with over 8.4 million relatives still living in North Korea, a result of being one of the only countries still existing with a divide.

His agency created a campaign for Hyundai late last year in which they took a man ‘home’ via virtual reality. The agency took the 2D map of the country and turned it into a 3D experience, placing the car inside as the vehicle that took him home.

The Drum spoke to Kim about Playground’s mission to “reappraise” brand communications and do something good with ads. He believes advertising in its traditional sense is redundant because it’s “not unique anymore." Instead brands need to go to where people play and get them to consider brands voluntarily, hence the name Playground .

Kim says a key part of putting brands into this space of using creativity for good is relevance. For Hyundai, this is met by having a legacy in helping displacement and conflict. In 1997 the brand took 50 tractors with 500 heads of cattle to the country to help it harvest food. VR has been used in this instance because the brand couldn’t go into the country physically. Instead, the car is now called the ‘promise’ car because they want to take him to his home town for real in the car eventually.

Playground isn’t the only agency in South Korea working on ways to improve this issues, Cheil Worldwide and Samsung recently launched a project to tackle the mental health of North Korean ‘defectors’.

Kim was previously at Cheil before starting up Playground, when the ‘Invisible People’ exhibition went live in 2014. It used 3D printed models of real refugees and hid them in the Seoul Museum of Art. Once found, people could use their phones to see a story about that refugee.

While the country is already strong for examples of innovative marketing that helps socially, he gave a call to arms, believing that the industry should be doing more.

“South Korea is very experimental, IT is very strong. We have lots of talented people in the creative sphere so there’s a synergy. I hope we can generate more meaningful projects from now on, we should be,” he said.

Cheil Worldwide Adfest South Korea

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