Hyundai is showing that automakers don't have to bash rivals in order to make their own products look better.
In four unconventional spots released in late August, Hyundai admits that its competitors are indeed churning out "good" vehicles.
The Ford Edge and Escape? Good.
Honda Civic? Good.
Toyota Camry? Good.
But Hyundai marketing boss Dean Evans says a conquest-minded Hyundai wants to hammer home the point that its lineup is "better" -- even if the brand is doing so in a way that's a little friendlier than the industry is used to seeing.
While Hyundai highlights various features such as Android Auto and emergency braking that competing models don't have, it stays away from the confrontational stance that consumers saw in June, when Chevrolet openly questioned the toughness of the Ford F-150's aluminum bed.
Hyundai went with a humorous touch instead by putting rival vehicles in precarious situations, including one Sonata spot that shows a Camry on a conveyor being slowly ushered to a huge grinder as a terrified occupant sits inside. Amid the confusion, Hyundai works in time to push the Sonata's Android Auto and panoramic sunroof -- features the Camry doesn't have.
Each ad begins with the "Good or Better" banner on the screen. The spots mark the latest phase of Hyundai's "Better Drives Us" campaign that began last year.
"It was built that way not to say "others aren't good,' but just to remind consumers that Hyundai has been striving for years to be better value, better technology, better safety," Evans told Automotive News.
"We thought the best approach in the marketplace was to come up with that friendly approach and still get our point across," he added. "I think at the end of the day, it also kept Ford and everyone else from writing us nasty letters."
Evans said the campaign started as a Tier 2 effort, but Hyundai has since bought national ad time for it. He said millennials likely will respond more favorably to the humor, but he's hoping to reel in any in-market buyer.
The spots center on the Elantra, Sonata, Santa Fe Sport and Tucson, with each one putting competing models in perilous situations.
The Tucson spot, for instance, indicates that the Escape's fueling and routine repair costs are higher than those of Hyundai's compact crossover. As these details are revealed, a huge magnet scoops up the Escape while a man in the driver's seat screams for his life.
Hyundai's marketing team went into the campaign wanting to beat up the competition, but they understood that they couldn't really crush or drop a vehicle because of legalities. So Evans said the enormous grinder, the magnet and a catapult were used as symbols for comedic effect, and no one gets hurt.
"You can't disparage other people's products. Networks don't want to run it, you get nasty letters, and I do think there is some illegalness to it at some levels," Evans said, adding: "Right before you think something's going to happen, it's not, and that's the gag."