Things That Make You Go Hmmm

“I love them.”

“I hate them.”

“I don’t get them.”

When it comes to the Kia Soul commercials, I fall in the latter. Last year’s “This or That” commercial has always perplexed me. Now the latest “Share Some Soul” commercial, which adds dancing robots to the famous hip-hop hamster trio, leaves me thinking, “I’ll just never get it.”

I understand the original “Hamsters” commercial, which debuted in 2009. Conceptually it makes sense to me. I understand the message behind it. However, the use of rodents in advertising just rubs me the wrong way—therefore, not a fan (does anyone recall this nauseating Quizno’s ad?).

My opinion aside, the ad was so effective in grabbing viewers’ attention it was awarded Automotive Ad of the Year at the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards in 2010. According to results from the Nielson research, the Soul commercial was able to “[break] through the clutter” and “[impact] audiences.” Having hamsters driving the car was “something surprising, something different,” said Sallie Hirsch, senior vice president of research in the Nielsen Automotive Group.

“It’s clearly quite different than the stereotypical auto ad featuring a car driving up a curvy mountain road while a classic rock song plays in the background.”

Understandable. However, I don’t understand what happened between the debut commercial and its follow up. In the 2010 Soul commercial “This or That” the hamsters suddenly take on hip-hop personas. The clever analogy I saw in the hamster wheel was replaced with a confusing comparison of toasters, washing machines and cardboard boxes—the intention, apparently, to compare the comforts of the Soul to other boxy vehicles. The message I received was, ‘The Kia Soul is better than a cardboard box.’ Yet the hamsters took home the Nielson Automotive Ad of the Year again.

Will 2011 become another award winning year for the Soul? I came across this article in my efforts to gain insight into the concept behind the newest Soul commercial. I discovered the commercial was directed by Mark Romanek (whose name I didn’t recognize, but I am familiar with one of his film credits (One Hour Photo) as well as his legendary music videos: Michael Jackson’s “Scream”, Madonna’s “Bedtime Story”, Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”, Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” and Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”). Romanek stated, “It’s a luxury to work on [commercials]. You are given these enormous resources and you’re expected to use them, for your craft.” I was under the impression you are expected to use these resources for the marketing and communication goals of the company whose product you are selling—silly me.

David Angelo, the chairman and chief creative officer of David & Goliath (the agency behind the creative), says the ads were born from “deep strategic research” into Gen Y, the target consumer of the Kia Soul. Oh to be a fly on the wall for those brainstorming sessions—what was the progression of ideas that led to dancing hamsters and robots as a means for selling cars?

Perhaps my inability to “get it” is the product of a generational gap. Or perhaps I’m trying to dig a bit too deep. Maybe David & Goliath’s strategy was to focus on the fact that members of Gen Y cut their teeth on iPods , video games and all things tech. Maybe the plan all along was to break through the car advertisement clutter with just enough ‘out-thereness’ to make you go hmmm.

I’d like to close this post by acknowledging I’ve been MIA far too long (I started this post two months ago, when the subject of it contents was at least somewhat new). Sometimes life just gets in the way, no matter my intentions. Life (literally) lead to my recent hiatus—a beautiful little life called Penny Mae.

Penny Mae
And since I’m giving Penny a little face time, I have to give my little man his turn in the limelight, as well.

Obviously, things aren’t going to be calming down for me any time soon, but I hope to get back into the swing of things within a month or so. My postings may be sparse in the upcoming weeks, but please bear with me.