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Hyundai Goes Boffo for The Academy Awards and Ocsar - VIDEO ENHANCED

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By Marty Bernstein

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If you thought Hyundai’s buy of 6 television commercials on the recent Super Bowl XLIV was big, it’s relatively minor compared to the eight Hyundai commercials on the ABC Television network’s broadcast Sunday, March 7 of the 82nd Academy Awards! Yes, eight, ocho, otto, huit, acht, and hachi in any language.

But that’s not all! After taking over from long time Oscar sponsor General Motors last year as the biggest Oscar advertiser, Hyundai will continue as the exclusive automotive advertiser on this year’s Academy Award ABC network broadcasts.

When was the last time you heard the term ... exclusive automotive advertiser? This could be a title of somewhat dubious distinction unless ratings are on the upswing. Oscar broadcasts are down according to Nielsen from a high of 55 million homes in 1997 when Titanic won Best Picture to last year’s 36.3 million homes.

While the numbers may be down it is according to media mavens a good buy at $1.2 to $1.5 million per :30-second spot. Adding up Hyundai’s buy of aforementioned eight spots – seven featuring the new Sonata and one for the award winning Genesis sedan -- that’s 4:00 minutes of airtime at say $1.25 mill each or in round number $10 million.

Then suddenly the skies over Hyundai headquarters in Fountain Valley, California darkened. An esoteric rule of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science stipulates commercials using an actor who is nominated for an Oscar are not allowed to air during the official broadcast of the Academy Awards.

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Jeff Bridges - scene from "Crazy Heart"

That could have been a major “uh oh!” for Hyundai. Jeff Bridges, Hyundai’s voiceover since 2007, is nominated for the Best Actor award for his role in Crazy Heart; thus his mellifluous voice could not be used on the commercials. Paraphrasing another advertising slogan: What’s an advertiser to do? Read on.

In a phone interview, Joel Ewanick, vice president marketing of Hyundai, told me, “When we learned of the rule it did cause serious concern since We had bought a lot of commercial time but only had about two weeks or less to get the commercials to the network for integration into the schedule.”

The logical solution could have been get another, non-Oscar-nominee to rerecord Bridges voiceover, right? Yes, but not this time. The answer was to get not one but several actors to substitute their voice for that of Bridges.

“Praise for this idea,” Ewanick said, “Should go to Chris Perry, Hyundai’s director-marketing communications, for suggesting the idea.” On the conference call with Hyundai, Perry said “My team working with Special Artists Agency, Jeff Bridges talent management firm, we were able to get a enviable package of seven very well known, recognizable, famous actors to substitute in our commercials, record their voiceovers, edit them into our old and new commercials, get them approved and shipped them to ABC just in time.”

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Richard Dreyfus

So who did Hyundai get? Five of the commercials have aired previously on the Super Bowl, two are brand new. Here are the actors, their important credits and a click to view individual commercials prior to the broadcast: • David Duchovny – Golden Globe winner The X Files - Luxury • Catherine Keener- two time Oscar nominee Best Supporting Actress - Quotes • Kim Basinger - Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress in LA Confidential - Genesis collision • Michael Madsen – starred in Donny Brasco and Kill Bill - Car Swap • Richard Dreyfuss - an Oscar winner for Best Actor in The Goodbye Girl - Room and Bungee • Mandy Patinkin – Emmy and Tony award winner - Genesis Lexicon • Martin Sheen – Golden Globe winner as PROTUS in West Wing – Body Pass

Click PLAY to watch the Hyundai Academy Awards promo video

Unless you’ve ever dealt with Hollyweird talent managers, agents and their emissaries, you have no idea of the countless hours of negotiation, posturing, re-posturing, negotiating, haggling, bargaining, wrangling and discussing over numerous phone calls, expensive luncheons, dinners and Laker’s games the vital topic of talent fees.

Talent fees, you see are the mother’s milk, the life plasma that feeds the purveyors of serious celebrity talent. Even in today’s poor economy low six to seven figures are the usual range for A-list celebrity talent in auto commercials. Coincidentally both Martin Sheen and Richard Dreyfuss have been voiceover talent in commercials for other auto brands .

To get these seven actors assembled, negotiated, signed, recorded, post production edited into the commercials in less than two weeks is an amazing feat, simply amazing!

While the Super Bowl is watched equally for the game and the commercials movie fans aka cineastes eagerly await the key awards, but Hyundai has obtained very good and couple “A” position placements for the seven Sonata commercials for in-show broadcast including Best Actor and one spot in the Red Carpet pre-show segment.

An additional attribute has been the use Kim Basinger and Catherine Keener, “It took seven stars to fill the void, but we’re excited about the cast we’ve lined up for Oscar night and know that viewers will recognize each and every one of them,” noted Ewanick, “Having two women do our commercials will add impact, we feel, to our messages.” Hyundai’s Academy Awards advertising extends its “Big Voices in Big Places” strategy, which includes high-profile advertising in sporting events, entertainment awards shows and outdoor video board placement. “The ensemble will bring variety and new energy to our spots, but will align with the approachable, confident tone that we weave through all our marketing elements. We wish all the nominees the best of luck on awards night, and we’ll be happy to return to our normal casting after the show,” said Ewanick.