Hyundai's New Ad Campaign Is Based On The Illusion That Nightmares Sell Cars

I’m not sure what the ad agency Hyundai hired to make ads for its N-badged performance car range is smoking or snorting or injecting, but whatever it is I want it the hell away from me and back into whatever underground chemical weapon bunker it came from. I say this because the commercial made for the Hyundai N brand is fucking terrifying.

Before we talk about this more, make sure you’re somewhere safe, have a bucket for fear ejecta nearby, and go ahead and watch the ad:

The fuck are you doing, Hyundai? Is this what your focus groups told you? Performance cars are best sold by showing images of men in pain, followed by a disturbing vision of a man being boiled into a equine-humanoid monster, clearly horrified by his own transformation? Is this how BMW moves all those M3s?


Did the scene of a man defecating squirming centipedes made of tire tread not test as well as the horse-man thing?

This ad is nightmarish, and in no way makes me want to go buy a Hyundai with an extra consonant stuck on the grille. It makes me want to wash and cry, a little.

Those men are all in real pain. The poor bastard who sprays himself in the face with the burnt rubber cologne? He does not look happy. The guy blasting his face with the strangely powerful hair dryer? He seems to have lost all control, and is suffering.


And the horse guy, that poor horse guy, I just hope he finds the solace he craves in the sweet merciful release of death, for his own sake.

Was that supposed to be some horsepower-related thing? Because the idea of becoming the worst kind of centaur is not what excites people about horsepower.


Everything about this ad seems so misguided, like hiring a taxidermist to do a live demonstration with a raccoon carcass at your kid’s birthday party because your kid likes animals.

What’s most troubling is that before this all went so off the rails, Hyundai’s initial instinct seemed like a good one: poke some fun at the usual overwrought clichés of premium and performance car advertising.


That’s something that absolutely needs to be done, as so many of these kinds of ads are pretentious, stomach-churning crap. And some of what ad agency R/GA has done was a good start—the Feel the Feeling tagline is just the right sort of jab at the self-important inanity of most of these sorts of ads.


So while the overal goal, as stated by James Temple, executive VP, chief creative officer EMEA at R/GA (that’s a lot of letters I don’t understand):

“Our aim with this campaign is to stand out of the crowd, to shake-up the staid formula of car advertising, and most importantly to have some fun with viewers.”


makes sense, R/GA really lost it in the execution. The resulting ad doesn’t feel like a parody, it feels like a strangely well-funded student film made by someone with a lot of access to hallucinogens and an animal-transformation fetish they’ve been painfully repressing for years.


There’s references to car-related things in the ad: the smells, the sounds, the feeling of what a performance car is, but it appears to have been forced through a filter of someone who has genuine fear and contempt for cars.

Look at the guys (also, performance cars aren’t just for people with scrotums, Hyundai) in this ad and tell me that they’re pleased by what’s happening. You can’t, because they’re not.


These are people who are confronted with allegories of the most exciting, visceral sensory aspects of exciting cars, and all of their reactions are ones of pain, fear, and confusion. This ad isn’t selling cars, it’s selling deep aversions to cars.


Really, this would be a better Amish recruitment ad than a Hyundai ad.

Better take a shower, spend some time with a dog, and give this another go, Hyundai.


Man, I do not want to look at the browser history of whoever came up with this mess.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)