Kia’s Russell Wager Previews EV6 Super Bowl Commercial

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Cover image for  article: Kia’s Russell Wager Previews EV6 Super Bowl Commercial

Korea's Kia is one of five automakers that will place ads during Super Bowl LVI on February 13 (the others are General Motors, Toyota, Nissan and BMW). MediaVillage has learned that its spot will focus on the new EV6 crossover electric car -- which is reaching its first customers now. It's likely that at least some of the other companies' ads will revolve around EVs, because the auto industry is going all-in on the tech. The just-concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) showcased only EVs.

MediaVillage talked to Russell Wager (pictured below), Vice President of Marketing at Kia America. Since 2015, Kia's ads have been created by Innocean with media placement managed by Canvas Worldwide. Canvas also is the media agency-of-record for Kia’s sister companies Hyundai and Genesis. Last year, Kia updated its logo as part of a rebranding strategy. The new design is intended to convey "symmetry," "rhythm" and rising," and evoke confidence-inspiring handwriting. Wager said the Super Bowl is "the perfect opportunity to show off the Kia brand evolution and new logo."

The EV6 (pictured at top) is an important car for Kia, and it will offer 274-mile range, available Augmented Reality head-up display and very fast charging (nearly 70miles added in less than five minutes). There will be three trim levels with different battery sizes, and the highest-level GT-Line AWD produces 320 horsepower and a 4.5-second zero-to-60 time.

But there's a lot of competition in the EV marketplace. "There are a lot of EV marketing attempts from a lot of companies, and with a vehicle as sophisticated as the EV6 the marketing needs to be just as tech forward as the car itself," Wager told MediaVillage. "The 60-second commercial will show how advanced the EV6 is and connect on an emotional level." He said that past efforts to promote EVs "blend in both visually and tonally. Kia's approach is more human. It's inspiring and uplifting, but also with a touch of humor. It will connect and resonate and inform the public of where Kia is heading without Plan S strategy."

Plan S includes offering 11 EVs by 2025 and going for a 6.6 global EV market share. By that same date, Kia hopes that a quarter of its sales will be of eco-friendly vehicles. The company is investing $25 billion in the strategy by 2025.

It's all about branding. "As a brand that's always looking to re-imagine what's possible, we at Kia see the Super Bowl as an opportunity to showcase our brand purpose and mindset," Wager said. "Whether it's through emotion, through humor or social responsibility, it's helped to raise not only awareness, but the affinity people have for our brand."

Two years ago, Kia used its Super Bowl ad as a platform to launch a campaign against youth homelessness. "This year, we're focused on another purposeful cause, which we will announce soon," Wager said. Before and after the commercial airs, Kia will be promoting an augmented reality experience, a TikTok interaction and "an assortment of snackable content."

Kia's involvement with the Super Bowl goes back 13 years, but like many other automakers it sat out 2021 because of COVID and "used the funds to help those in need."

EVs require a new advertising approach, because for many buyers it will be their first time in an electric car. Questions like "Where will I charge?" and "Will I have range anxiety?" are common, and hard to answer in 30 seconds. Auto advertising has come a long way from the print ads of the 1920s that offered lengthy fine print about everything from suspension settings to tire pressure, and these days mostly attempts to evoke an emotional response. But EV ads probably do need to have an educational component.

Humor works, too. That's the approach Kia took when it introduced its meme-inducing hamster ads. The ads accomplished their purpose of making Kia -- a comparative upstart in the auto industry -- part of the mainstream conversation. This one is from Super Bowl 48:

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It's unlikely that, with an approach aimed at being inspiring and uplifting, the hamsters will be the centerpiece of the new EV6 campaign. But there will be a touch of humor, so they could get a cameo.

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