OPINION: Mills on ... Hyundai

Readers, this column comes to you in censorship-defying style. My colleagues on Campaign have banned me from watching Leagas Delaney's new Hyundai commercial. But I won't be denied. The ban has nothing to with the ad; it's the music, a simple child-like ditty called I'm sticking with you. I love the ad, and I love the music, but it goes round and round in your head and they claim they can't work after hearing it.

Although it might sound like a piece of music they'd play at a stalkers' convention - the lyrics go "I'm sticking with you, 'cos I'm made out of glue. Anything that you might do, I'm gonna do too - it is in fact a perfect piece of music for the ad. Not only is it maddeningly catchy - although I can almost guarantee it won't be released as the obligatory single - but it's also perfectly appropriate, which is not something you can say of many ad soundtracks these days. Call it a case of post-Moby cynicism, but most of the time it seems the ad supports the music rather than vice versa.

The only surprise is that it's by the Velvet Underground, which is a bit like hearing that Ozzy Osbourne's embraced Appalachian folk music. Venus in Furs it ain't. And what's the point of the music? Well, it's to do with Hyundai's new strategy, which centres on the idea that it wants to build a relationship with its buyers. I know, it sounds terrible. But don't go "yuk or yawn and say "how boring and unoriginal". Not yet, anyway.

The ad celebrates, if that's the right word, Hyundai's decision to offer five-year warranties on all its cars. Personally, I find that about as motivating as a Dixons extended warranty that costs more than the product.

But if you're trying to challenge the perception that Korean cars aren't quite top drawer, then putting your money where your mouth is must be the right way to go. In fact, the consumer experts on What Car? tell me that five years is pretty special. UK manufacturers generally offer three years, and some foreign marques only one. So it's a damn good deal and a genuine point of difference. It also pushes up or helps maintain residual values in the second-hand market, which is another thing that matters to the owner-driver market.

I'm not sure I could tell a Hyundai from any other Asian marque, but my impression is that in terms of desirability they're out of the same mould as Proton, Kia, Daewoo, Mitsubishi and Suzuki - ie basic, cheap and bland. But these days the car market is a confusing place and, in terms of specification, build quality and reliability, the so-called value marques are now edging up on the lower-end Vauxhall, Ford and Rover products.

So how does Hyundai demonstrate it is on a par with with these other more desirable marques? Without a new range, it can hardly claim to be aspirational. So playing the reliability card is a strong alternative.

While I wouldn't say five-year warranties make Hyundai a must-have purchase, they certainly remove one of the barriers to purchase. Even VW, which has pretty much owned reliability, can't match this proposition.

However, something as rational as a five-year warranty doesn't translate easily into advertising, which makes Leagas' achievement all the more praiseworthy. The ads are a collection of quick vignettes, illustrating the idea of enduring relationships between, variously, a jogger and his shoes, a husband and wife, a man and his favourite piece of music, and a netball team. Note too the way the cars are almost incidental to the ad, more prop than hero. They're warm, charming, crystal clear and memorable. Just like a VW ad really, and I can think of no higher praise. One more time now ... "I'm sticking with you ...".

Dead cert for a Pencil? Well, equal best use of a Velvet Underground
track in an ad.
File under ... R for reliable relationships.
What would the chairman's wife say? I suppose I'd better get rid of the
Golf then.

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