Kia scores an advertising Koup—without saying a word

Do we even need someone speaking in a commercial anymore? Lately, some of the most creative, compelling ads don’t say one word.

For example, the ad (below) for the Kia Soul just won the Automotive Ad of the Year award.

If Kia cars are as good as Kia advertising, maybe we should all go buy a Kia. What makes their advertising so hot?

  1. A creative, attention-grabbing visual—hamsters on wheels
  2. Funky music that makes you feel good
  3. A great tagline—Kia Soul. A new way to roll

They used the power of three to break through the cluttered world of auto advertising with creativity and (dare I say?) memorability. Oh yeah, and they won an award for advertising, won awards for their car, and boosted sales.

Kia’s latest ad for their new Forte Koup uses the same formula—the power of three. This time, they use:

  1. In-your-face video bursts of their car in action as their visual.
  2. Up-tempo motivating music
  3. A series of phrases to lead you through to the tagline

Half rocket scientist…Half supermodel…The new Forte Koup…One hot ride.

Kia’s not the only one having success creating killer ads with no one speaking. CSX has an equally compelling commercial and they didn’t even use music. Watch and see.

How did they get us? They appealed to one thing all of us have in common—we breathe.

At first I thought it was an asthma drug commercial and I almost turned away. They probably planned on that, so what they did was intersperse their message on plain, words-only screens in between breaths.

Just as Kia draws us in with funny hamsters on wheels, CSX draws us in with powerful audio and visual and snags us with a relevant and resonant message:

CSX trains move 1 ton of freight 436 miles on 1 gallon of fuel. Less fuel = less emissions. (Note the switch to exhale right before emissions.) Good news for anyone…who breathes.

CSX. How tomorrow moves.

People say actions speak louder than words. In advertising, Kia and CSX are proving that’s true.

The words in their ads aren’t loud at all. But the music is and the action is, and that gives those words impact they probably wouldn’t have had if spoken alone.

The young audience Kia is targeting certainly wouldn’t be impressed with a typical voiceover car commercial. And CSX—a company consumers don’t have any interaction with—had to do something that would keep people in the room.

The lesson for advertising teams everywhere is: Once you have the message you want to deliver, decide how to have the greatest impact for your audience. How are you going to keep people in the room?


Some advertising and copywriting blogs for you to check out: AdFreak, Men with Pens, and Beyond Madison Avenue.

Help! Philly needs a new brand

Philadelphia’s brand has been taking a beating lately, from flash mob violence to the newest low, a stupid Philly sports fan puking on a dad and his kids—on purpose. (I wish I was kidding.)

Besides the horror and disgust I feel, I am also angry. Why should idiots like this dictate our city’s brand?

Should our brand really rest on the shoulders of obnoxious drunk men or out-of-control teenagers? Should our brand rely on bad mayoral decisions or Eagles fans booing Santa?

The answer is no…and yes.

You see, the brand of a city is no different than a company’s brand. It doesn’t matter how many good citizens or employees you have if the bad news outweighs the good.

Think of AIG. Many hard-working employees there had nothing to do with the misdeeds of the company. Yet they were painted with the same ugly brush.

Philadelphians sick of the drama and trauma know how AIG workers feel. But how can we turn our brand around?

Patience is key, but so is having a solid, long-term strategy.

Hyundai turned their brand around, from crappy to Car of the Year. Converse sneakers went from invisible to invincible (without the public realizing they’re now owned by Nike).

Surely Philly can come back from flash mobs and puke attacks.

Yes, cities are at a disadvantage because they don’t have the same leverage over their citizens, sports teams, etc., that companies have over their employees. But, yes, we can still turn things around if the right people commit to change.

Steps to Philly’s brand recovery:

  • We can all work to understand the problem and know what our role is in causing it and fixing it.
  • Parents and citizen groups should organize and set a plan of action—things they can do on their own (like setting rules and curfews for kids) and things they need government help with (like finally improving Philadelphia schools).
  • Sports teams and local and state governments have to commit to solving the problem and involve the community in their efforts. (Mayor Nutter, how about fewer ribbon cuttings and more updates on how you’re solving problems?)
  • Laws and consequences must show that we’re serious about demonstrating and maintaining a positive brand. (Yes, this means curbing alcohol at games more if we have to.)
  • We have to live our good side and advertise what’s great about our city.

Philadelphia is so rich with history. We have wonderful museums, excellent universities, and top-rated medical centers. There’s so much to love about this city!

Did you know that we were ranked 27th on Bicycling magazine’s list of top bike cities? Or that we’re ranked the 5th best city for single women?

Are we building relationships outside of the city and state that promote all this goodness?

Are we making it easy for Philly residents to take pride in their city?

No. Not well enough anyway. And until we do, drunken idiots will rule.


Two interesting blogs I came across this week, but did not use in my blog are the ThirdWay blog and Old Magazine Ads. Check them out.

If you ran Nike, how would you start advertising with Tiger?

Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m the CEO of Nike, and it’s December 2009. I have a decision to make. What do we do with Tiger Woods?

What I’d like to do is make him fly, no drive to Oregon in his messed up Escalade with a scarlet “T” painted on the top and every side. I’d make him meet me in my office at 7 a.m., and I’d show up to finally talk to him at 4 p.m.

I’d tell him if he wants to keep his contract, he would have to clean the toilets throughout the company—at our headquarters and at every store.

When all was said and done, I would keep Tiger as the face of Nike Golf. Really, what other choice do I have?

In a way, I’m lucky because I’m not the CEO of Accenture or any of the other sponsors who dropped him or put Tiger ads on hold. These companies (even Gatorade) all relied on Tiger more as a role model than as a golfer, and though we (at Nike) do rely on his image and likeability, we’re going to be ok. Once Tiger gets back to golf full time, the buyers of his merchandise will be back.

I’m lucky again because my target audience is men, who do not attach emotionally to the man or his marriage. They just want to golf like him (and golf with him).

EA Sports, which also kept Tiger (and also relies on him for his golf, not his reputation), did research and ran focus groups (WSJ) to see what consumers were thinking.

They found that: “People were sensitive and caring about his wife and children but still recognized that he is the world’s greatest golfer, and they were looking forward to his return,” says EA Sports President Peter Moore.

So, now we’re in present time and I have to take this information (still as Nike CEO) and figure out how we start advertising again.

Do I decide that my first commercial will show a constipated-looking Tiger not saying a word while his dead father’s voice plays? Hell no! It reeks of “feel sorry for me,” and a smug irony—did they forget Tiger’s father wasn’t faithful either?

I would focus on the golf. Instead of showing Tiger, I’d show past golf shots, probably with the sound of the cheering crowds. I’d show the shoes as he blasted a ball off the tee. And at the end, I’d focus on humility and contrition. I’d show Tiger, not in his typical championship red, but in softer colors. He would say something serious and apologetic, but hopeful.

I’d start running it a few days into the Masters. Maybe Tiger would say simply, “Thank you…for welcoming me back.”

Why? Go back to the focus groups. Golf is going to save his image, his ad power, not any manufactured sentiment.

Now I’m back to being me. And, as the new awful ad says, I want to find out what your feelings are. What would you do if you ran Nike?


Photo credit: JLMitch

For a different advertising comeback story, read Beneath the Brand. For other views on Nike’s new Tiger ad, check out the Planet Money blog or Matt Singley’s blog.

Burger King: Ditch the King to be a brand king

Burger King needs an intervention. It’s in a codependent, abusive relationship with “the King.” The King is:

  • Creepy in a child molester type of way.
  • Violent and offensive to many.
  • Old and tired and stuck in sophomoric humor mode.

The problem is Burger King and its agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, seem to love these traits. I guess they’re targeting teens and men in their 20s, because I can’t imagine anyone else liking these ads.

Remember those creepy “Wake up with the King” commercials? You know, the ones with the King standing in the bedroom while someone slept? Does this make you want to go to Burger King?

Burger King’s new commercial brings their King advertising to a new low. I know it’s probably considered hilarious by many. But I find it downright violent and disturbing.

The first frame is a woman in her office talking on the phone. Then, a chair comes crashing through her glass office wall. The chair is thrown by the King.

Don’t we have enough violence in our lives? Do we really need it in a Burger King commercial? Watch for yourself. What do you think?

Many people are offended by this ad. I can see why, but I’m not offended. I just don’t like it. Considering this particular King has been around for about 6 years, it’s time for a new approach.

I’m sure Burger King and Crispin think they’re being creative and edgy. But come on, keeping a character around for that long is not creative. And offending people and creating controversy on a regular basis isn’t either.

Yes, I concede that the King helped boost Burger King’s brand. But, hey, people liked the Geico cavemen at first too.

Why not come up with a new King-less campaign? Show you can reach for a wider audience—with a more relevant brand message. Try and drive people of all ages into the restaurants.

Or, stick with the King and continue to amuse adolescents everywhere, and fall so in love with that attention that you let the King star in his own sitcom. Yeah, that’ll work.


P.S. After I finished writing this, I saw Burger King’s most recent commercial. And even though I still hate the King, I have to give props. I love “Sneaky King” for one reason—it’s honest, which also makes it bold, in a good way. And I love McDonald’s for not being one of those a–hole competitors who sues whenever a competitor “copies” them.


Until next time, here’s a blog I found while writing this, Gods of Advertising, and a site I’m on all the time, Fast Company. Enjoy!