Hyundai “IRONIC” Advertisement
Market Forces is an environmental campaigning organization that primarily focuses on the sources of finance for environmentally destructive projects. Its mission of seeking to divert finance from environmentally destructive projects to environmentally sustainable ones is summed up by its positioning statement of “your money as a force for good.” The Market Forces head office is based in Melbourne, and it has been running incredibly successful environmental campaigns ever since they were founded in 2013.
Hyundai Motors became the focus of Market Forces’ campaign work when it was discovered that its affiliate, Hyundai Engineering & Construction (Hyundai E&C), had signed an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract to build a new 1,200 MW coal power station, called Quảng Trạch 1, in the Quảng Bình province of Vietnam. The communities located there whose land was acquired for the project allege that they were not appropriately compensated or resettled, and remain concerned about the environmental pollution that the project will create. There are also concerns that the construction of the adjacent coal port would cause pollution by submerging waste and sludge into the sea. Even more importantly, any plans to build new coal power stations such as Quảng Trạch 1 are completely out of line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
Hyundai Motors promotes itself as being committed to sustainability, and is promoting its new IONIQ Electric vehicle as a sustainable choice. So, Market Forces approached me to design an advertisement for them which highlighted the fact that one of Hyundai’s affiliated companies is building a new coal power station, which effectively makes Hyundai’s “commitment to sustainability” mere greenwashing. In fact, Market Forces calculated that it would take a million sales of their IONIQ electric vehicle—all running entirely on renewable energy—to cancel out the climate impacts of Quảng Trạch 1. The design involved subverting the typography of Hyundai’s IONIQ car brand to instead say “IRONIC” and also creating a photo montage of an “IRONIC” electric car (i.e., an IONIQ electric car with “IRONIC” written on the license plate) that is being charged by a dirty coal power station in the background.
“The strategy of the advertisement was to use the brand awareness of the major shareholder, Hyundai Motors, to apply pressure upon its affiliate, Hyundai E&C, to create a new policy to get out of coal…”
The advertisement appeared in the Financial Times on 23 July 2021 just before Hyundai was set to host a major board meeting. The strategy of the advertisement was to use the brand awareness of the major shareholder, Hyundai Motors, to apply pressure upon its affiliate, Hyundai E&C, to create a new policy to get out of coal, and ideally also out of the deal they had made to engage in the construction of Quảng Trạch 1. The advertisement gained significant media attention (e.g., The Korea Times, The Korea Herald, and several Korean-language news outlets such as Naver, Khan, and Segye), and as a result, Hyundai E&C announced a new policy to phase out all future coal-related business (which was reported by Bloomberg). The advertisement has now also been featured on social media channels of the culture-jamming magazine Adbusters (tweet shown below).
It’s always a pleasure to work with the team at Market Forces, especially when it is on winning campaigns like this one that help us take steps towards reaching environmental sustainability.
Visit the Market Forces website: marketforces.org.au
Research & Legal Analyst: Bernadette Maheandiran, Market Forces.
Lead Campaigner & Project Manager: Meg Fukuzawa, Market Forces.
Art Direction & Design: Jarren Nylund, Design Good Design Studio.