It's good to see Hyundai and Kia finally having some fun with their ads now that they've established their brands, but it's very clear who's the senior partner in this equation.
Last year, Hyundai alone sold 646,000 vehicles in the U.S. -- a brand record -- and increased sales more than 29% over 2010. Its new Elantra was named North American Car of the Year in Detroit to kick off 2012. Kia, meanwhile, set its own U.S. sales record with more than 485,500 cars rolling off its lots and a nearly 36.5% sales increase that outpaced the industry's post-Cash for Clunkers comeback. At this year's Super Bowl, Hyundai is touting that success with two 30-second ads that highlight not only the new Veloster's zippy ride by pitting it against a cheetah in one ad, but the whole brand's quickening pulse by using a Hyundai to jump-start a man's heart in another. For a brand usually considered as dangerous and exciting as copy collation, starting that narrative is worth the $7 million expense.
Just for kicks, however, Hyundai's also throwing in a 60-second "anthemic" pregame ad to get people thinking about practical rides and 10-year warranties. Considering such an ad can cost $4 million if it comes right before kickoff, Hyundai's getting pretty aggressive about gaining ground on hobbled Toyota and Honda and keeping pace with surging Ford and GM.With Hyundai playing responsible adult, that means it's up to Kia to play the petulant, pubescent child. Kia's Super Bowl teaser featuring Adriana Lima in a glorified seat belt provided the first clue about where this was going, but little warning about the lowbrow road ahead. It seems Kia really wants to get Mickey Rourke or his Randy "The Ram" Robinson character from The Wrestler into an Optima. Since Toyota already claimed Guns 'N' Roses and Sweet Child O' Mine for its Yaris ads, Kia crammed G'N'R also-rans Motley Crue, Ultimate Fighting retiree Chuck Lidell, a scantily clad Lima and a bull rider into its sandman-themed spot. The hope is that someone will turn off Headbanger's Ball or leave the strip club long enough to see it and think to themselves "Man, the '80s have been over for more than 20 years now. If only there was a cheap midsized sedan with both 41 miles-per-gallon highway mileage and an audio system that let me hear the Hair Nation channel on Sirius XM." Hyundai and Kia deserve lots of credit for continuing to expand their influence on Super Bowl Sunday, but perhaps Hyundai should tell Kia that it wants to end up in America's driveways -- not its moms' basements.