Kia, as a brand, has had its ups and downs, but has never forgotten about who they are — a challenger with the requisite spirit.
New work that breaks today, from David&Goliath (D&G), has captured the essence of the challenger , features one of their most prominent endorsers, LeBron James and includes a new theme, 'Doubt No More'.
The spot, entitled 'Rain', could be misperceived as a commercial for the NBA Finals, but the idea is quickly apparent; that the world is full of doubters and naysayers and it’s always good where there is an opportunity to prove them wrong.
James himself experienced doubt in the NBA Finals last season with his Cleveland Cavaliers team down three games to one against the vaunted Golden State Warriors. Facing seemingly insurmountable odds, James lead his team to the NBA title. The work, which will air across NBA media on TNT, ABC, ESPN and NBA TV, is an homage to James, mirrors the same issues of doubt that Kia has faced over the years in the US and was the inspiration for the creative direction.
“Once LeBron pulled that off, we thought that we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn't recognize the power of that. Our goal was to demonstrate the power of overcoming doubt by one of the greatest athletes of our time,” said David Angelo, founder and chairman of El Segundo, California-based D&G. “In doing so, [we’re helping] people overcome the doubt of owning a Kia.”
Indeed, Kia has been fending off doubters for a very long time in the US. The brand initially entered the market with only two models in 1994, took hits for quality in the early years, and was razzed in popular culture. But, over time, the product line expanded and the quality improved, to the point where Kia was named number one in initial quality by J.D. Power in 2016.
“When you look at the models 24 years ago, the two models that we started out with, to where we are today, that's a huge jump in progress,” noted Angelo.
Despite the momentum, the brand still endures perception problems. Part of the 'Doubt No More' ethos is to get those who haven’t fully bought into Kia to that the next step. The work veers from its previous, lauded portfolio of fun and upbeat (Kia's Melissa McCarthy-led spot took the top spot for this year's Super Bowl Ad Meter), pivoting to a place of near defiance, working hard to make its point while still keeping, as Angelo puts it, its 'challenger spirit' at the fore.
“We saw this as a great opportunity to help correct a perception issue,” said Angelo. “There were so many naysayers and so much bad stuff that was written about Kia years ago, and people are still holding on to some of that baggage despite all of the advancements that we've made.”
“Kia has transformed into a world-class automaker and a recognized industry leader, and no auto brand has experienced greater growth over the last 20-plus years than Kia,” added Michael Sprague, chief operating officer and EVP, Kia Motors. “Despite that success, there are still doubters out there, and the ‘Doubt No More’ creative addresses them head-on and proudly showcases the 'New Kia'".
Internally, at a recent national Kia dealer meeting, the response to the new spot was “overwhelmingly positive”. Dealers can be notoriously fickle about manufacturer creativity, but the brand seems to have struck a nerve and the theme ('Doubt No More' is not a new tagline, per se, but a theme for the LeBron James campaign) appears to be “a powerful rallying cry for our team members and dealers across the country,” noted Sprague.
Even though the brand has come a long way, there is still more work to be done. Angelo, who has worked with the brand for 17 years, believes that this new approach will be the moment when the “fence sitters” begin to take more notice.
“I've been driving this same route for the past 17 years,” said Angelo. “I see more and more Kias on the road. [But] there’s still that perception lag. There's still a disconnect between where the brand is and what it used to be. We believe that this is one of those spots that can help people learn more about us and what we've been able to achieve over the last 10 years. By drawing that parallel between LeBron overcoming doubt and aligning that with who we are and that shared belief system, I have to believe that people will take that next step [and it] will help us convert those fence sitters.”
Sprague hinted that this theme might not be a one-off and that they are committed to the position.
“As a challenger brand that is always looking to stand out in the sea of sameness that is automotive advertising, the theme of doubt speaks directly to the consumer and gives them something to identify with, which is something we’ll be doing more of in our marketing in the future,” he said. “For those that have not followed our progress, we intend to reintroduce ourselves by challenging everything people think they know about the Kia brand.”
Even when more success comes the brand’s way, Angelo feels that Kia and, by extension, D&G, will still continue to forge a path forward that works to circumvents the seeds of doubt, embraces the challenger mentality and still retains its edge of defiance.
“I don't think it ever ends,” noted Angelo. “You never rest on your laurels when you're a challenger brand. Every time [anyone] doubted us, we would just prove them wrong.”
Founder & Chairman: David Angelo
Chief Creative Officer: Bobby Pearce/Colin Jeffery
Executive Creative Director: Gustavo Sarkis
Associate Creative Director/Copywriter: Devin Heatley
Senior Art Directors: Geovanny Panchame, Danny O’Connor
Senior Copywriter: Kurt Warner
Associate Planning Director: Ed Gibson
Director of Broadcast Production: Paul Albanese
Executive Producer: Christopher Coleman
Senior Broadcast Producer: Brandon Kusher
Managing Director: Jeff Moohr
Group Account Director: Mike O’Malley
Management Supervisors: Jay Mattingly, Jennifer Engelman
Account Supervisor: Tara Poosti
Account Executive: Lauren Kelley
Assistant Account Executive: Jaime Gullas
Digital Account Executive: Rebecca Hanson
Senior Project Manager: Genie Lara
Senior Art Producer: Andrea Rosenfeld
Director Business Affairs: Rodney Pizarro
Business Affairs Manager: Daniella Vargas
Product Information Managers: Russ Wortman, Mark McNaul
Production Company: RESET
Director: Johnny Green
Executive Producer: Jeff McDougall
Executive Producer: Jen Beitler
Head of Production: JP Colombo
Producer: Greg Schultz
Director of Photography: Joost Van Gelder
Editorial: Spinach Editorial
Editor: Steve Gandolfi (Courtesy of Cut+Run)
Assistant Editor: Luc Giddens
Executive Producer: Jonathan Carpio
Producer: Patricia Gushikuma
Visual Effects: JAMM
VFX Supervisor/Lead Compositor: Jake Montgomery
VFX Supervisor/Lead CG: Andy Boyd
Flame Artist: Patrick Munoz
Flame Artist: Ally Burnett
Flame Artist: Mark Holden
CG Artist: Zachary DiMaria
CG Artist: Kristen Eggleston
CG Artist: Nha Ca Chau
CG Artist: Brian Burke
CG Artist: Nagender Boga
CG Artist: Joel Durham
CG Artist: George Saavedra
CG Tracking: Peregrine McCafferty
CG Tracking: Amélie Guyot
Producer: Ashley Greyson
Executive Producer: Asher Edwards
Agent: Tyler Gourley Photography
Content Photographer: Tyler Gourley
Music/Sound Design: Barking Owl
Executive Producer/Creative Director: Kelly Bayett
Sound Designer: Patrick Navarre
Mixer: Morgan Johnson
Producer: Ashley Benton