There are times when a concept is so obvious, you have to run with it. Such is the case with Hyundai and its longtime agency Innocean for this year’s Super Bowl. Featuring the new, redesigned 2020 Sonata, the carmaker focuses on one key feature in its ad: Remote Smart Parking Assist. But the shorthand for it is Smart Park.
That word combination led creatives to set the ad in Boston and riff on the city’s unique accent, leaning fully into an ad titled “Smaht Pahk.”
Starring Boston-area natives John Krasinski, Rachel Dratch and Chris Evans—all of whom slide back into their hometown accent with glee—it’s 60 seconds of quick-fire banter, local references and copious mentions of Smart Park (or in their case, Smaht Pahk).
While some might think that a minute of a thick Bostonian accent could be grating, it’s actually glorious because of the actors, as well as cameos from Red Sox legend David “Big Papi” Ortiz and two of Mark Wahlberg’s brothers (at the beginning of the ad).
The timing is whip-smart, and Dratch’s improv and SNL chops in particular are on full display. This is a ridiculously dense commercial, and it’s hard to pick just one favorite gag, but people may gravitate to her calling the Sonata a “ghost cah,” as Krasinski navigates a tight spot remotely.
The ad is in keeping with the brand and agency’s tradition of comedy, though it hasn’t relied on it every year. Last year, the brand enlisted Jason Bateman to focus on Hyundai’s Shopper Assurance program, and in 2016 Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart starred in ads that topped USA Today’s AdMeter. In 2017, Hyundai saluted veterans with an ambitious spot filmed live during the game, and 2018’s “Hope on Wheels” effort supported its pediatric cancer nonprofit.
“The Super Bowl is America’s largest stage,” said Hyundai CMO Angela Zepeda, who started in the role last October. “It’s an important stage for Hyundai because we still consider ourselves a challenger brand, and we want to be out there where America is.”
But back to the Boston thing. According to Barney Goldberg, Innocean executive creative director, what started as a linguistic challenge became a fabulous concept.
“We try to find that one very interesting thing and do it in an entertaining way. So the feature we focused on is Remote Smart Parking Assist, which is a mouthful,” Goldberg said. “It was shortened to Smart Park, and then a team with Boston roots started saying it in the accent, which started becoming pretty catchy.”
Even though the idea was there, the agency went through an eye-popping 344 original scripts.
“With the Super Bowl, you want to look high and low and be really thorough,” he said. “We landed on 10 for Angela [Zepeda], and ‘Smaht Pahk’ from the beginning was the one.”
Since this is an ad with a highly specific creative and regional premise, the brand and agency tested it to “make sure we’re not leading ourselves down the wrong path,” Goldberg added. They believe the ad should be a runaway success, based on Ace Metrix data.
The spot scored close to 700 overall (the norm is 552) and outperformed in all qualities, including likeability, watchability, relevance and desire. When reviewers were asked to name the single best thing about the ad, the cast and the product itself—the most critical aspect of the ad—both scored well above average.
“We want to make sure it’s entertaining, but we’re also informing and educating people on our products. So it’s a nice blend of both,” Goldberg said.
Last year’s Bateman ad had close to 39 million views and was the second most-viewed commercial of the year. Crucially, it drove 200% more traffic to the brand’s site.