York on Ads: No 29: Hyundai

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The Independent Culture
WHAT IS stopping you buying a Korean car? Is it because you've never seen one and don't know anything about them? Or is it because you've checked one out and decided that it doesn't measure up? Or, let's face it, is it because you're an Anglocentric racist who hates the entire Korean people and is particularly prejudiced against delightful, deserving, thoughtful Korean children in sailor suits?

This is the challenge Hyundai makes in its new ads, intending them to become talking points. Taking Hyundai's 'problem' - that its country of origin isn't quite on the UK's approved shopping-list yet and may be seen as would-be Japanese - it attempts to turn it into a unique selling point.

In yet another New-Age-style sequence we see lovely Korean things - blossoms and buildings - and very superior people. On the sound track are what sound like quotes from W Gordon Allport's classic sociology text The Nature of Prejudice, read by a voice almost certainly filed under 'Authority'. 'Even deeply held prejudice can be removed by knowledge and experience,' it says. Meanwhile we get tasteful glimpses of the car blending with the collage of artistic, enterprising Korea.

This is a part of a new style of advertising, with distinct overtones of social responsibility and 'values', that yokes products and services to issues. Viz the Body Shop or Benetton. Hyundai is offering viewers more than just a car: this is an opportunity to express yourself as superior to those benighted rednecks who won't touch anything that isn't made in Birmingham or Stuttgart.

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(Photograph omitted)