Hyundai Surprises Drivers With Emotional Meeting in Super Bowl LII Ad

"Hope Detector" highlights Hyundai's Hope on Wheels program

This year's spot incorporated footage shot over the weekend at Hyundai's Super Bowl Live experience.

Last year, Hyundai used its Super Bowl LI ad to surprise three American troops with virtual family reunions, so how did the brand fulfill its promise to “surprise millions” this year (as hinted at in a teaser aired during the NFC and AFC Championship games)?

Hyundai Motor America chief marketing officer Dean Evans explained that the company looked at customer data about why Hyundai owners purchased their vehicles and largely received “real rational answers,” such as the strength of its warranty or gas mileage; this led to the emotional approach of last year’s ad.

“What we’re trying to build is a brand that people want to buy because they have something like being proud to own the vehicle,” Evans said, adding that the brand’s Super Bowl LI spot “resonated well” and led to customers saying they were proud to own a Hyundai.

For this year’s Super Bowl LII ad, which is running in the fourth quarter shortly before the 2:00 mark, Hyundai and agency of record Innocean asked themselves how to “amplify that even more,” Evans explained, which ultimately led the brand to focus on its Hyundai Hope On Wheels pediatric cancer nonprofit organization.

“When you go out and buy a car, every car has a bunch of features on it,” Innocean chief creative officer Eric Springer said. “What we realized with Hyundai Hope on Wheels … we have a feature called ‘hope,’ and that no other car company has that feature.”

This year’s spot incorporated footage shot over the weekend at Hyundai’s NFL Super Bowl Experience driven by Genesis. The brand transformed metal detectors into “hope detectors,” which, of course, didn’t actually detect anything (that flashing red heart is for aesthetic purposes only). Hyundai owners who passed through the detectors were then pulled aside and shown a version of the brand’s new Super Bowl spot in private, followed by an emotional surprise meeting.

That’s right: The “millions” of heroes the brand promised to surprise refers to those who have supported Hyundai Hope on Wheels—or, in other words, its own customers.

“Everybody wants to buy a great car … but what if you got a great car company with it?” Springer added, pointing to last year’s and this year’s efforts as a means of demonstrating the brand’s longtime support of such causes. “Hyundai has a track record of doing things like this … this is the type of thing people want to know more about.”

Back in September, Hyundai ran a 30-second spot focused on the Hope on Wheels organization for Cancer Awareness Month, which Evans said was a “test bed” for Hyundai to “start getting a feeling for how that content would resonate.”

Evans told Adweek that the company surveyed its customer base and was surprised by how few were aware that purchasing a Hyundai incorporates a donation to the pediatric cancer nonprofit—despite Hyundai Hope on Wheels being around for 20 years and a portion of every Hyundai purchase going to the organization.

“That’s really what fueled it, and we told ourselves after that, we really wanted to use the next biggest opportunity possible. So that obviously was the Super Bowl, so it kind of fit nicely with our timing and our learning internally,” he explained.

Hyundai isn’t the only Big Game advertiser which chose to focus on charitable actions. Stella Artois highlighted its partnership in a spot starring Matt Damon, while Budweiser touted its recent water relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters.

“We’re very honored that there are other companies that are leaning in every day on their own cause marketing and connecting with their customers in the same way,” Springer said. “We’re really proud and honored to be one of those organizations and brands that we think are brand-building in the most effective and dynamic way possible.”

Regarding the move of Hyundai’s Big Game ad from immediately following the game to the fourth quarter, Springer said: “Last year, we liked our placement, but it was awful nail-biting … This year, we wanted to make sure the spot is seen, and seen in a very strategic time and place, and that’s why we picked the spot that we did this year in the fourth quarter, hopefully right before the two-minute warning.”

Following the game, Hyundai will continue to promote the spot through digital and social initiatives.

Title of Spot: Hope Detector :60

Client: Hyundai Motor America

Chief Creative Officer: Eric Springer
VP, Group Creative Director: Michael Everard
VP, Group Creative Director: Rich Pass
Creative Director: Scott Muckenthaler
Associate Creative Director, Art: Joe Reynoso
Copywriter: Alvaro Soto
Executive Producer, Content Production: Nicolette Spencer
Executive Producer, Content Production: Harry Lowell
Senior Producer: Melissa Moore
Associate Producer: Devondra Dominguez
SVP Managing Director, Brand Management: Marisstella Marinkovic
Group Brand Director: Mike Braue
Brand Director: Bryan DiBiagio
Brand Manager: Alison O’Neill
Brand Manager: Christy Butler
Brand Manager: Katie Leonard
SVP, U.S. Head of Strategic Planning: Kimberly Bates
SVP Media: Ben Gogley
Media Director: Sean Gilpin
Director of Business Affairs: Ann Davis
Associate Director of Business Affairs: Lisa Nichols
Broadcast Traffic Supervisor: Theresa Artaserse
Broadcast Traffic Manager: Valerie Neibel
Project Manager: Jason Reneman
SVP, PR & Business Development: Angela Zepeda
PR Manager: David Thalberg

Production Company: Anonymous Content
Director: John X. Carey
DP: Evan Prosofskey
Executive Producer: SueEllen Clair
Producer: Sara D’Alessio
Production Supervisor: Shelly Silverman
Production Supervisor: Adam Warner
West Coast Sales: Jonathan Wright

Edit House: Jump LA

Editor: David Trachtenberg
Editor: Erwin Fraterman
Assistant Editor: Mike Wolfe
Assistant Editor: Kristina Yawata
Executive Producer: Betsy Beale
Producer: Ann Vega
Head of Production: Kerry Haynie
Managing Partner: Eric Stern

Animation & VFX: King & Country
Director/Partner: Rick Gledhill
Executive Producer/Partner: Jerry Torgerson
Head of Production: Brian Butcher
Producer: Joe Abousakher
Director Business Development: DJ Fox
Coordinator: Calvin Kim

Hyundai Motor America
Chief Operating Officer: Brian Smith
Chief Marketing Officer: Dean Evans
Director, Marketing Communications: Paul Imhoff
Senior Group Manager, Brand Marketing & Advertising: Monique Kumpis
Senior Group Manager, Corporate & Marketing PR: Michael Stewart
Executive Coordinator, Marketing & PR: CY Park
Executive Director, Hyundai Hope On Wheels: Zafar Brooks

Mix: Juice Studios
Sound Engineer: Scott Burns
Executive Producer: Dawn Redmann
Producer: Vanessa Carey
Assistant Mixer: Robert Gomez

Color: Company 3
Senior Colorist: Sean Coleman
Senior Producer: Matt Moran

Finishing: Method Studios
Lead Flame Artist: Wensen Ho
Flame Artist: Aaron Neitz
Flame Artist: Aidan Thomas
Flame Artist: Kelly Bumbarger
Flame Artist: Rachel Moorer
Flame Artist: Cecile Tecson
Flame Assist: Cody Edwardson
Producer: Everett Cross
Executive Producer: Cara Lehr
Head of Production: Ananda Reavis

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.