Kia Effort Backs Optima With Cinema, Bowl Buy

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Kia Motors America is launching its largest campaign ever in the U.S. in support of its 2011 Optima. The campaign, via Santa Monica, Calif.-based David and Goliath, the brand's AOR, begins this weekend as a new made-for-cinema 60-second spot.

The ad shows a child waking up in a dream to see the door to the bedroom open wide, revealing a road along a fantastical landscape whose design evokes the kind of holiday diorama one sees this time of year in the windows of Macy's and Bloomingdales. His racecar-shaped bed sprouts lights and rolls out of his room and down the road as the boy takes the wheel at the foot of the bed.

As the car rolls over a snowy countryside, he passes such childhood fantasies as a rocket ready for liftoff, Crusaders in armor, a unicorn, a train full of whimsical pigs and a girl who looks out at him just before he enters a tunnel. When the bed disappears into the inky black of the tunnel, the car transforms into the Optima, and emerges with the boy, now grown up, at the wheel. The ad -- like most recent ads for Kia vehicles -- makes sparse use of voiceover, preferring to let imagery, icons and supers tell the story. The only voiceover, in fact, is toward the end: "Nobody ever dreamed of driving a mid-sized sedan ... until now. "

Michael Sprague, VP of marketing for the Irvine, Calif.-based automaker, tells Marketing Daily that the use of visual icons makes more sense nowadays, given that as culture gets more technologically centered, visual communication -- paradoxically -- has become more pictographic and icon-based. "What it allows us to do is communicate visually. So our strategy has been not to have much voiceover but to allow music and visuals to communicate the message and use icons to support that," he says.

Kia started using pictograms when it launched the Soul crossover last year to represent such functional specs as mileage and telematics. "It's easier to figure where to put an icon for, say 34mpg, than look for the right place in the ad to deliver that message with a voiceover. And if you think about how consumers are getting information now, it makes sense."

The spot will run starting Dec. 10 in a media buy encompassing 17,000 theaters nationwide through early January, which Kia says means over 70 million moviegoers will see the ad. Then the ad will air during the national broadcast of the Super Bowl in February, the second time Kia will have advertised during the game.

Sprague says that during the second phase of the campaign, Kia will air a pair of 30-second TV spots for Optima featuring creative extracted from the 60-second ad. He adds that Kia's buy in the Super Bowl will be in the first half next year, versus the third quarter in the 2010 game.

Kia is also bringing the car to auto shows as part of its "Experience the New Standard" program. "We will have Optima at major auto shows throughout the U.S. with a ride and drive; it is very important to do this," says Sprague, adding that the company will have vehicles at NBA game venues, with product specialists on hand.

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