By Kendra Clark | Senior Reporter

January 28, 2022 | 7 min read

Hyundai is sitting on the sidelines for this year’s big game – but didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. It has teamed up with A-lister Jason Bateman to promote its new electric IONIQ 5, and plans to air the spots during the NFL conference championship games this weekend.

South Korean automaker Hyundai today launched a new campaign starring Jason Bateman designed to highlight the long history of discovery and innovation behind the all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5 SUV hatchback.

The campaign – featuring the slogan ‘Your journey at its most evolved’ – includes two TV spots, two TikTok videos and additional creative to be deployed across digital, social and out-of-home (OOH).

In the hero film, ‘History of Evolution,’ Bateman appears during different iconic eras of world history – dressed the part, of course – explaining how different innovations have evolved, from language and our understanding of cartography all the way to telephones and, eventually, electric vehicles (EVs). The campaign aims to position the drastic strides that Hyundai has made in advancing EV technology.

The second TV spot, ‘Campsite,’ showcases the IONIQ’s two-way charging system – which enables consumers to not only charge their car, but also use it to charge other electrical devices – by spotlighting how the comfort and ease of camping has evolved since our frontier days.

The idea of evolution as improvement

Hyundai’s chief marketing officer Angela Zepeda says that, with the new IONIQ 5, the brand is focused on changing consumers’ perceptions of what EVs can be. “It is beautifully designed and it’s full of all kinds of incredible safety and technology that you would expect on a much more expensive car. For us, this is sort of democratizing electrification, bringing this incredible technology to the masses and really eradicating fears or doubts that people had about electric cars because of range, anxiety or other issues.”

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To bring this message to life, Hyundai worked with its agency of record, Huntington Beach, California-based INNOCEAN USA. The concept, according to the agency’s executive creative director Barney Goldberg, stems from the idea of evolution as improvement.

“The first version of something new isn’t always the best version – sometimes it takes a little time to get it right. Language took some time, telephones took time. Lots of people have tried to make great EVs – like they tried to make good phones and they tried to make good TVs – but it doesn’t mean it can’t get better,” he tells The Drum. “[The message is about] an evolution of the brand as well as EVs. Life’s a journey – as humans, we’re always evolving and always tweaking and making things better. That was sort of the narrative as a brand and as a vehicle. This is the most evolved EV out there today.”

Goldberg says that Bateman was an obvious choice for the campaign. The Arrested Development actor has been a partner of the brand for some time. He starred in an ad for the Hyundai Tucson last year alongside Mindy Kaling, and made headlines in 2019 for his performance in the brand’s 2019 Super Bowl spot ‘Elevator.’

This time around, Goldberg says, the team asked Zepeda who she wanted to headline the new campaign. “She looked at us and said, ‘Well, of course Jason Bateman.’ I said, ‘Of course; as you wish.’” He credits Bateman’s “disarming” humor and wit for making him “universally liked.” He adds: “When you get talent on screen, when they first appear, you want a consumer to know this is going to be a fun ride or this is going to be interesting ... because I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.”

Suffering Super Bowl FOMO

With Bateman on the screen, the brand also feels like it can make a big splash around Super Bowl season, even though it has opted to sit out the big game this year (a decision it also made last year, following a five-year streak). Zepeda says that the decision was “based on business priorities.” She points out that while the Super Bowl enables brands to generate a wave of media hype, it doesn’t necessarily provide the range and reach needed to really drive the bottom line. “We really needed to keep this message and market for a longer period of time,” she says.

Zepeda also admits that Hyundai, like many manufacturers and retailers, saw its business impacted by pandemic supply chain hiccups – most notably the widely-publicized semiconductor chip shortage that has brought manufacturing operations around the world to a standstill. So the decision to skip out on a Super Bowl ad — with 30-second spots ringing up at a hefty $6.5m this year – was a strategic one.

But the brand didn’t want to miss out on the fun entirely. “We still love football,” says Zepeda. “We know a lot of [car companies] are back in the Super Bowl this year and we assume they’re going to talk about their electric vehicles. We have a little FOMO. So, we want to be in and around the Super Bowl in a big way that makes us feel like we’re part of the Super Bowl without actually being in the big game.”

Charging up Hyundai’s future plans

On top of supply chain struggles, Hyundai has seen mixed bottom line results of late. On an earnings call on Tuesday, the company’s executive vice-president Seo Gang Hyun noted that operating profit for the quarter ending in December fell 6.8% year-on-year and net income dropped 57%, much lower than analysts had estimated. However, sales were up 6.1%, slightly above previous projections, and company leadership said it anticipates that 2022 will bring its sales back to pre-Covid levels.

The promotion of the new IONIQ 5 is part of the company’s larger strategy to develop its electric and environmentally-friendly line-up; it plans to increase sales of eco-friendly vehicles by 30% this year. Marketing programs including the new Bateman campaign are sure to aid in the effort.

“We see ourselves as a challenger brand still,” says Zepeda. “We’ve had 35 years in the US with an up-and-down history. We were late to the SUV category; we made up for that at the end of 2019. That’s no longer the way we want to go. We’re very focused on the future. We’re one of the few brands that even has hydrogen technology. And electric is part of our blood – we have the largest line-up of alt-fuel vehicles than any other [auto manfucturer]. Not many people know that. But now it’s becoming much more of a mass marketplace.”

The new spots were directed by commercial director Jim Jenkins, who was also behind the camera for Hyundai’s ‘Elevator’ spot starring Bateman. The spots will air not only during the conference championships this weekend, but also on popular programs including The Bachelor, Black-ish and NBA and NCAA games, as well as across social media, through May.

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