Grant McCracken: Cracking The Pomplamoose – Hyundai Case

Grant McCracken: Cracking The Pomplamoose – Hyundai Case

The Hyundai-Pomplamoose campaign looped the loop. It went from odd to charming to familiar to contemptible to irritating in about 3 weeks.

Grant McCracken, Cultureby
  • 4 january 2011

We all watched heroic amounts of TV over the holidays.

All of us saw the Hyundai ad that features Pomplamoose, the American music indie duo.

The Hyundai-Pomplamoose campaign looped the loop. It went from odd to charming to familiar to contemptible to irritating in about 3 weeks.

We can guess what happened. Hyundai discovered they had a hit on their hands. The campaign was doing good things for the brand and more to the point it was moving cars. So they sold the heck out of it.

Poor Pomplamoose! In a daring strategy for which I applaud them, they took this campaign as an opportunity to play pilot fish, to travel with the Hyundai shark for a short while in the hopes of sharing small bits of its dinner. And they got consumed in the process.

Now, some people will say, “Look, no band should do a deal with the devil. Pomplamoose got what they asked for.”

Maybe. Certain kinds of indie “cred” do depend precisely on keeping one’s distance form a project of this kind. But for everyone who isn’t a culture-never-commerce separatist, the Hyundai-Pomplamoose case is an opportunity for illumination. I mean, Honda used “Holiday” as their sound track for the holidays, and I bet it was great for Vampire Weekend’s iTunes sales. Refusing all truck or barter because it sometimes goes wrong is shortsighted.

The question: what’s the best way for a small cultural enterprise like a comic, a playwright, or, in this case, a band, to maximize this opportunity and minimize this risk.

First things first.

1) Did this campaign loop the loop? (For all I know everyone hated it from beginning. Or, everyone loved it from the beginning and they still love it.) What we need is data. I am no master of the methodology but I bet someone could run the numbers for the twitter and blogging world and tell us what the “shape” of adoption was. Did it loop the loop? What was the loop? How fast did this happen? Where is sentiment now?

2) Why did this campaign loop the loop? Is it the fact that Pomplamoose created the campaign? I guess “creative control” was one of the reasons Pomplamoose was interested in making it. And I guess that the handmade aspect of the spots was what interested Hyundai. Now they had “artisanal advertising.” How very fashionable, how very effective.

3) Hey, presto, the bargain worked. Both parties were happy. And the campaign in the early days tumbled obliging down the Kauffman continuum, from weird, to odd, to charming. Job well done. Culture and commerce had found a way to work together. Let’s all join arms and sing the hymn to “win-win.”

4) Then things went wrong, badly wrong. By sometime in the second week I was hearing people (and by “people,” I mean, my wife, Pam) say, “Oh, god, not them again.”

I think the problem has to be repetition. We were obliged to watch the campaign so many times, charming turned coy. Coy got irritating. The campaign was pushed down the Kauffman continuum and became unendurable.

5) One take-away: Pomplamoose should have restricted how many times the ads could be played. And now they question, assuming this is possible, what number? Half the number of times the campaign did play? (Would Hyundai still have been interested?) A quarter?

6) But this is not just a Pomplamoose problem. When people started to react against the campaign, they were now repudiating Hyundai as well. It was actually in the Hyundai interest to restrict circulation. What was Hyundai’s magic number?

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