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 Water.org 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.”