Kia: Telling The Truth in a More Powerful Way

"Our story began with a bicycle, back in 1951."

It's the opening line of a Kia ad that has been airing the past few months.  I like the ad. It makes you feel good. I like the Kia models that I've driven. My wife likes the ad. She suggested that I write about it. It works at making you feel good about Kia.

The ad opens with a kid from the past. This helps us suspend disbelief when the announcer gets to the part about Kia. We're quickly ready for more because we've been instantly transported back to Mayberry. We're ready to feel good! When they tell us about the new Kia plant in Georgia, it all makes sense to us and we feel good about that too.

The interesting/curious part: there are elements of the ad that just don't add up.

True: Kia has opened their first U.S. manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia.

True: This is a good thing for Georgia, and for the U.S.

Strange: That a kid who looks like he stepped off the set of Leave it to Beaver could be riding a bike that was manufactured in South Korea in 1951. He is later seen riding it in the Georgia factory.

Stranger still: By all accounts (Kia's web site and Wikipedia), Kia was started in 1944 in Seoul. Wikipedia says they manufactured bikes, but Kia's own site says bicycle parts.

Question: Why does the ad say 1951 instead of 1944? Why an American kid and not a Korean kid?

I get it. All Marketers are Liars Tell Stories.

The story is, "Kia is a successful company that has been around a long time. We used to only manufacture our products in Asia, but now we're manufacturing cars in the United States. We hope you will like this fact and buy more of our cars."

The inconvenient facts are that it simply wouldn't be effective to show a Korean kid playing with bicycle parts. 1944 was also right in the thick of World War II. 1951, not so much.

If viewers get the idea that those bikes were made in America, so be it.

And, if Kia can avoid tying itself to WWII, instead, to a time when we were allies, what's the harm?

Also…certainly, nobody is going to check the facts are they?

What do you think?

And…was that really a Kia bicycle in the ad?

8 thoughts on “Kia: Telling The Truth in a More Powerful Way

  1. KDudra

    This kind of ad follows a recipe that’s meant to give you the warm fuzzies. Emotions travel 3000x faster through the brain than facts, so if the facts are a little off, do we care? (Perhaps they were making bikes by 1951…and Wikipedia isn’t 100% reliable so we can’t be sure.) The voice over voice sounds familiar. Like fresh baked bread…

  2. Dave Young

    Fresh baked bread! I love it!

    The big lesson to advertisers is, “Don’t let insignificant FACTS get in the way of telling a powerful story.”

    The story is true and it DOES make you feel good about KIA.

    I’m ok with it. I still like the ad and I think it’s quite effective at making me feel good about Kia.

  3. Bill Laidlaw

    Rings hollow for me Dave because of the images not the voice over. You’ve already mentioned the fact that the boy was Caucasian,huh? After the reveal(that it was a KIA ad),what this story said to me was “we are misleading at best, keep listening if you want sucker”. Secondly it’s nice that they built a plant in the U.S but where are the workers? They showed two people here and a couple there. Seems to me they missed out capitalizing on the best part of their “new” and “true” story.

  4. Dave Young

    Bill…were your eyes closed? I counted 16 humans (besides Opie) in that ad. Most of them seemed to be servicing an army of robots, but hey…this is the future man!

  5. Tony

    Nice post David. I too have thought about writing on this topic. This ad is disturbing to me, for the opening line: “Our story begins….” Matched with “The Beav”, this definitely is misleading, and for those of us who know what Kia is up to, is a major turnoff. That said, the average american is not a marketing or ad man/woman…so perhaps they will be fooled. Warm fuzzies or not, this ad is just annoying to most people I know.

    Side note: why doesn’t one of the US car dealers leverage the american nostalgia as effectively as KIA…hmmm….


  6. Teo Radu

    Actually it’s not about telling true stories. Kia tried to find a way to get closer to the people hearts. The idea behind this ad was pretty good. The producer failed 🙂 Also, as Bill said in a previous comment, the factory is empty. Ok, Kia tries to revive their US business with some ads targeted to the American people. But it does it in some unpolished way.

  7. Steve Jones

    I like the ad.

    They say “our story begins in 1951”. Does that mean the Kia story or simply the story being told in the commercial in question?

    My impression was that the kid’s bike in 1951 was made by Kia, and reality very well could be that large parts of it were.

    The boy drives into the Kia factory at the precise moment when the voice over says “today”, which is a nice touch that drives home the message.


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