How Hyundai shot its emotional Super Bowl ad — during the game
Hyundai visually transported three soldiers to Houston’s NRG Stadium using 360-degree pods that placed them in a suite with their family members attending the game. The soldiers — who are on a military base in Zagan, Poland — were surrounded by a screen that allowed them to look around the NRG suite and see the field as if they were in the stadium. The families could see the soldiers through a monitor being held by a teddy bear sitting in the suite with them.
While some companies battled for Super Bowl kickoff and first-quarter ad slots, Hyundai decided to anchor the game with a blast of raw emotion that put a new spin on the familiar tale of reuniting soldiers with their families.
Most are used to the traditional scene of soldiers walking in on unsuspecting family members when they return home. But Hyundai flipped the script by surprising the soldiers with a technological tour de force that brought the families “together” at the Super Bowl despite being a world away.
Adding to the spot’s complexity, the agency had to shoot a portion of it, edit and then get it approved during the game to blend the reactions into the 90-second documentary-style ad. It aired during the first commercial break after the game.
For “Operation Better,” Hyundai and its agency Innocean deployed a technology that the team can’t compare to anything else. Going beyond virtual reality, the Hyundai crew visually transported three soldiers to Houston’s NRG Stadium using 360-degree pods that placed them in a suite with their family members attending the game.
The soldiers — who are on a military base in Zagan, Poland — were surrounded by a screen that allowed them to look around the NRG suite and see the field as if they were in the stadium. The families could see the soldiers through a monitor being held by a teddy bear sitting in the suite with them.
Hyundai wasn’t looking to hawk products this year. The brand wanted to apply its “Better Drives Us” philosophy in a way that was bigger than just making quality cars, said Dean Evans, Hyundai’s chief marketing officer.
Evans said the team knew it would be a monumental project going in, but they were driven by the “power of the idea.” The spot was directed by Peter Berg, whose works include Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon and Friday Night Lights.
“What is the brand really doing to make a statement to the world to really make things better for people that maybe aren’t even Hyundai customers? What are these acts for the brand that you do on a regular basis to make people stand up and go ‘Wow, I love what that brand stands for,’” Evans told Automotive News in the lead-up to the Super Bowl. “We like to say buying a better car starts with a better car company.”
Super Bowl spots are normally months-long undertakings that allow agencies to polish their productions ad nauseam, picking over every detail. Innocean didn’t have that luxury.
To pull the ad off, the agency had to bring in a remote studio to the stadium that was decked out with all the tools needed to produce it. Due to the rapid-fire nature of the spot, the team said it planned to have representatives from the NFL, Fox and the military in the trailer with them to expedite the approval process.
Innocean came into Super Bowl Sunday with some of the ad shot already, so the agency was able to plug in the new footage on the fly. The plan was to have the ad finished and approved by the middle of the third quarter, said Eric Springer, Innocean’s chief creative officer.
While one crew was in Houston putting the finishing touches on the spot, another team was on the military base shooting a Super Bowl party with the soldiers.
The three soldiers in the ad were pulled aside during the festivities and brought to the pods. The pod screens started off blank, but then suddenly morphed into a stadium view in which the soldiers could see their families sitting alongside them.
The team picked the soldiers with the most emotional stories. All three of the soldiers, for instance, were away from their children.
Springer said Operation Better harkens back to Hyundai’s Assurance program, another empathetic initiative in the brand’s history.
When economic uncertainty still clouded the nation in January 2009, Hyundai introduced Assurance so that buyers and lessees who lost their incomes could return their vehicles for up to a year with no impact on their credit. Hyundai ran a Super Bowl ad that year to highlight the offer.
The brand wanted to continue that tradition with an act of kindness for the troops. The team knew this year’s project would be difficult, but said failure wasn’t an option.
“Putting the man on the moon was a heck of a process, too. But you get the right people in the room, and you’re surprised by what you can do,” Springer said.
Hyundai had a backup spot in its pocket just in case something went haywire during the game. Springer joked that the other option would’ve been him and Evans crying on camera for 90 seconds.
Unlike most auto brands in past years, Hyundai’s ad didn’t feature any products. It wanted to use the stage to do something meaningful, or what Evans and Springer call an “act of the brand.”
But other campaign content will feature some metal. The military families were brought to the stadium in the new Ioniq, so consumers will get to see the hatchback in behind-the-scenes footage online.
“It’s fully about the military, it’s fully about paying homage to patriotism and doing things better for somebody,” Evans said. “It’s important that you not just sell cars every single day, but you really do get the ‘act of the brand’ out on a regular basis to keep people’s hearts warmed to the brand.”