Kia Hamsters Snicker At Cubist Competition

KIA

If a car had the capacity for emotion, the three words that might terrify it most are "launch and abandon." But it is not unusual for marketers to pull out the stops when introducing a new vehicle and then put the stops right back in three months later.

Kia, however, is giving its Soul another shove in the respite between the redesigned Sorento, which launched during the Super Bowl, and the forthcoming Sportage re-do, launching in August.

And the campaign brings back the hamsters from the initial Soul "A New Way to Roll" campaign from last year. Kia and its agency, David and Goliath, got kudos and statues for the effort, positing the non-Soul-driving world as a Richard Yates-inspired landscape of rodents hopelessly spinning their lives away on those little metal wheels the hamsters get with their gym memberships.

The new effort, "This or That," breaking on Wednesday, makes fun of other cubist compacts (E.G. Nissan Cube and Scion xB) by suggesting that competitors deserve the auto-insider description of boring cars as "appliances."

As in last year's launch spot, a trio of 20-something hamsters (or the mammalian equivalent) return to hamster-ville, this time as hip-hop artists driving an acid-green Soul and dancing and grooving to music from Black Sheep. As they cruise around, they notice the hoi polloi are driving appliances, literally: toasters, washing machines and cardboard boxes.

The effort comprises a 60-second in-cinema and TV ad, a 30-second TV version, and 15-second online ad, plus a microsite, banner ads and out of home.

The ad runs on cable, and online at Pandora, Facebook, Social Vibe's PetVille, Kia.com and as part of a YouTube contest. Cable buys include ABC Family, A&E, Adult Swim, BET, Bravo, CMT, Comedy Central, Discovery, E, Food, History, MTV, Nick@Nite, and many others.

And one other thing: a line of T-shirts, hats and hoodies with a hamster theme called Hamstar. Michael Sprague, Kia VP marketing, says the clothing line was a response to consumer demand after last year's campaign. "We got a lot of inquiries from consumers about it, so it was always in the back of our minds," he tells Marketing Daily.

[David and Goliath] has a lot of young people there who are into street culture, so they developed these 'Hamstar' shirts, wore them around and people liked them. So we gave them basically free reign to develop this line of commemorative shirts and hats for the campaign."

Sprague says there will be a Web site as well -- Hamstarclothing.com -- where people can purchase the items. Dealers will also be able to get them and Kia will give away the apparel at experiential events the automaker sponsors such as the Vans Warped Tour, and NBA's NBA Nation tour. Kia is also sponsoring the MTV Movie Awards on June 6, and will have a presence at the L.A.'s Universal City venue.

Sprague says Soul is Kia's halo vehicle, its design portending a raft of vehicles that came after: the Forte last July, and Forte coupe in October; the Sorento in January; the Sportage in July; and Optima after that, all reflecting the work of famed vehicle designer Peter Schreyer.

He says Soul is attracting younger, more affluent and educated consumers to the brand. "And expect the approach with current ads will continue to connect with a more youthful buyer."

He says the time is right to do more advertising. "We had lots of great success last year with Soul; it has done well in the first half of this year, as well. And as the summer is a big selling period, we felt the time was right." He says he had never expected to reprise the hamster theme. "A year ago we were at the Forte launch and a journalist asked me about the hamsters. I said then that we would not use them again. I've learned now never to say 'never.'"

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