In the world of Branding, it is a well-made assumption that all the big shops are filled with talented writers, art directors and presenters. I've always wanted to know the deciding factors that tip the scales in favor of one agency vs another.
Fortunately for me, Business Week published a "behind the scenes" look at a recent pitch for the $600 million Hyundai account. Fortunately for you- I'm about to describe it.
The Situation: Despite receiving high marks for quality, Hyundai has struggled with stalled sales. The company, which was the fastest-growing car maker in the U.S. from 2000 to 2005, had a target of selling one million vehicles in North America by 2010. Hyundai sold just 455,000 cars in the U.S. last year.
- Siltanen & Partners: signed actor Kelsey Grammer as the voice for its TV ads and created a series of ads that compared Hyundai models to much more expensive brands like Lexus and Land Rover, making the point that the Hyundai in many instances outperformed or had more standard features than vehicles $10,000 to $20,000 more expensive.
- StrawberryFrog: An idea—and a word—it felt Hyundai could own in the marketplace: defog. "There's something unusual about Hyundai drivers, something you may not have noticed. They're curious. They do their research…more than any other driver. They find the truth. They cut through. They see the world more clearly." A Web site called Hyundaipedia would be a Wikipedia-like site for Hyundai facts and information on such technical terms as "ABS brakes."
- Arnold Worldwide: "Here's To More." Arnold believed Hyundai's strength to be that it offers customers more standard equipment than competitors such as Toyota and Ford Motor (F ) at lower sticker prices. Comped TV ads trumpeted Hyundai's superior safety ratings show a man celebrating his 60th birthday. The ad then replayed his life in reverse, all the way back to when he was 22 and survived a crash in a Hyundai. The ad line: "Here's To More Birthdays."
- Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners: "Why Doesn't Everyone?" The agency created a strategy of social networking, direct marketing, and multicultural and corporate marketing. To get past the baggage that Hyundai's own logo is associated with its poor-quality past, the agency hatched an idea to break out the letter "Y" from "Why Doesn't Everyone" and Hyundai's own name, and turn it into a new graphic icon that overshadows the Hyundai logo. It was a clever way to give Hyundai a fresh look and new start without asking the automaker to change its global logo.
THE POWER OF RESEARCH: Hyundai opted for San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein + Partners. Goodby helped to define Hyundai's problem using research involving 200 people who sized up the new Veracruz crossover. When a group was shown the vehicle without any identifying logos on it, 71% said they'd buy it. Once the Hyundai logo went on, however, that dropped to 52%. In the same research, a Toyota logo lifts intent-to-purchase by more than 20%.
"Think about It" One TV ad showing a woman walking in slow motion through an art gallery carries the following voiceover: "There's a lot of great stuff in the world that you miss when you're in a hurry. In your mad dash to get to the Mona Lisa, you miss cubism, impressionism, and the whole French Renaissance. So, what we are really saying is slow down. It's not something you usually hear from a car company. We're not telling you to go out and buy one of our cars. We're just going to tell you how we're safer and better made than some of the cars you might be looking at. And then ask you to think about it."
Interestingly enough, Goodby's actual slogan, or tagline, bombed with Wilhite and most of the rest of the group. "Have A Nice Car," Wilhite thought, was too trivial a phrase like, "Have A Nice Day."
More interestingly to me: This week, Steve Wilhite, chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor America who was in charge of this entire agency review, has stepped down from his post directing Hyundai's U.S. operations after the world's sixth-largest automaker had to cut its sales target this year.
So, how do you like life in adland? Don't quit your day job.