Successful ad campaign preserves entertainment value and element of surprise

It’s probably an occupational hazard, but I’m often overly critical of television ads. Recently, though, I’ve had to tip my hat to Kia and its “Sandman” commercials. The car company has done an extraordinary job, I think, in slicing and dicing a single concept to keep the audience’s attention time after time. The extended version of the “dream car” ad presents a relatively detailed story. The Sandman visits a husband and wife separately during the night, showering each with sparkly dream dust. The woman slips into a pastoral scene, complete with rainbows, green fields and a hunk on a white horse. The man, on the other hand, dreams of a 2012 Kia Optima on a racetrack with barely-dressed supermodel Adriana Lima wielding the checkered flag. Motley Crue and a bevy of bikini clad spectators cheer him on. Eventually, the man drives the Kia off the track and breaks into pastoral scene, where his wife abandons the hunk and rejoins him. I’ve found how Kia has presented shortened versions of the ad just as intriguing. Both feature the husband’s dreams and are shown frequently during prime evening viewing hours. In one, the Sandman doses the man with only a light sprinkle of dream dust, and viewers see a version featuring Lima and the racetrack, but none of the other additives.

The other features the Sandman tripping and dumping the entire load of dream dust on the man—and we see a version that includes Motley Crue and the beautiful bystanders. What makes it interesting, though, is that when the commercial comes on, you don’t know which version you’re going to see—until the Sandman performs his duty. I’m definitely not the target viewer for this ad and I tend to channel surf during commercials, but I can’t force myself to click the remote until I’ve seen which version is going to be shown. And that’s the secret to a successful ad. Most of us get tired of TV ads long before the campaign runs its course. We leave the room, change the channel or zone out after we’ve seen them a few times. But Kia is using an identifiable and entertaining story line, and has been able to preserve an element of surprise even months after the campaign was introduced. It definitely keeps this prospective customer watching. (For the record, I also thought the Kia Soul “Party Rock” hamster commercials were hilarious, too!)