How Hyundai’s epic YouTube campaign reached 100M views in 50 days

December 2017

100 years after a failed expedition by a legendary explorer, his great-grandson returns to attempt to complete the mission with the help of Korean carmaker Hyundai. What follows is an epic 30-day journey in freezing temperatures of sub-30 degrees Celsius, which forms the basis of an epic marketing campaign entitled “Shackleton’s Return”. It remains the most viewed automotive video campaign in history.


Raise global awareness of Hyundai’s “Together for a Better Future” corporate philosophy and its values of safety, leadership and self-sacrifice

Raise awareness and interest in Hyundai’s Sante Fe model, the first SUV to successfully cross Antarctica


Used YouTube to showcase long-form creative storytelling, “Shackleton’s Return”, on centenary of legendary explorer’s failed attempt to reach South Pole

Used audience targeting options to effectively reach younger generations and those interested in technology, adventure, travel and vehicles

Published range of supporting content for ‘Shackleton’s Diary’ to raise awareness and sustain interest in the campaign


100M views in just 50 days after the launch

Surge in ad recall (Ukraine 27.9%, UK 36.7%, South Africa 60.2%, Mexico 39.2%)

Lift in brand awareness (UK 13.9%, Netherland 16.9%, Mexico 19.9%, KSA 15.8%, Italy 12.7%, Australia 12.1%)

Surge in searches for “Hyundai” keyword (UK 173.9%, Mexico 80.8%, Indonesia 65.8%)

Surge in searches for “Santa Fe” keyword (Vietnam 129.1%, Ukraine 108.5%, Australia 73.2%)

 ‘There is no greater journey than the pursuit of a dream’

In 1916, legendary explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton embarked on a journey to fulfill the dream of crossing the Antarctic. Within a month of his expedition, his ship became trapped in pack ice. Faced with the prospect of going forward to complete the expedition or turning back, Shackleton decided to abandon the mission because he didn’t want to endanger the safety of his 27 crew.

On the 100th anniversary of his failed expedition, Hyundai wanted to complete his unfulfilled dream to cross the Antarctic. Envisioning a future where automobiles make it possible for people to go anywhere, at any time, the Korean carmaker teamed up with the descendants of Ernest Shackleton and that of his 27 crewmembers to make another attempt to cross the Antarctic.

In December 2016, Shackleton’s great-grandson Patrick Bergel returned to Antarctica with the help of Hyundai and a specially equipped Santa Fe 4x4. What followed was an epic 30-day journey stretching over 5,800km, culminating in reaching the South Pole and back. The journey, and the physical and mental conditions required to cross the frozen continent in sub -30 degrees Celsius and below, was documented and released in a 5-minute documentary film entitled “Shackleton’s Return”.

The epic film, hosted on YouTube, was underpinned by three points that aligned with Hyundai Motor’s corporate philosophy of “Together For a Better Future”.

1) The first is Shackleton's leadership, which values crewmembers above all else, aligns with Hyundai Motor’s philosophy of placing the safety of its customers above all else.

2) Hyundai envisioned a car in the future which allows people to go anywhere, at any time. By completing the crossing of the Antarctic, Hyundai Motor successfully presented its vision on the car of the future.

3) Demonstrate Hyundai Motor’s outstanding technology through the success of crossing the Antarctic for the first time in commercial vehicles.

Connecting with new audiences

With the film over 5 minutes long, Hyundai knew it had to host the video on a platform with engaged audiences who were more inclined to watch it in full and with sound. To connect with younger audiences and non-European audiences who were relatively less familiar with Sir Ernest Shackleton’s stories, Korea’s Hyundai also published 18 independent content for "Shackleton’s Diary". For example, “Patrick’s Diary” is an expedition log of Shackleton’s great-grandson Patrick and contains multiple interviews with descendants of the original crew. "Dedicated to Shackleton", is the film exclusively created in honor of Shackleton. A companion microsite entitled “Shackleton’s Return: Chasing a 100-year-old dream” shared more behind-the-scenes content about the epic expedition.

Hyundai, which targeted over 40 markets in its global YouTube campaign, also used specific TrueView ad targeting options to effectively reach the younger generation and those interested in technology, travel, outdoor adventure and vehicles.

Film smashes records

“Shackleton’s Return” was unveiled to global media and published on YouTube on April 20th. It instantly received incredible support worldwide, reaching 100M views in just 50 days after launch. The campaign was also widely covered by global media, including Reuters, BBC, Huffington Post, and Top Gear. To date, it remains the most viewed automotive campaign video in history.

The film resonated with consumers: the brand saw a significant uplift in branding metrics like ad recall (Ukraine 27.9%, UK 36.7%, South Africa 60.2%, Mexico 39.2%) and brand awareness (UK 13.9%, Netherland 16.9%, Mexico 19.9%, KSA 15.8%, Italy 12.7%, Australia 12.1%).

Keyword searches for "Hyundai" also spiked in UK (173.9%), Mexico (80.8%), and Indonesia (65.8%). Searches for “Santa Fe”, the 4x4 SUV used in the film, also saw significant growth in Vietnam (129.1%), Ukraine (108.5%) and Australia (73.2%).

“We were aware of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s story and as a company, felt a resonance with his courage and pioneering spirit. Our film celebrates this spirit and through Patrick, his great grandson, completes his dream to cross Antarctica – just a hundred years later. We hope that it showcases Hyundai as a brand that that is more than just a means of transportation,” said Scott Noh, head of Overseas Marketing Group, Hyundai Motor Company.

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