Kia, “Storytelling Machine”
David & Goliath
The Kia Sorento, per an ongoing campaign, is “the world’s first storytelling machine” (below).
Oh, really now?
We shan’t allow such a claim to go unchallenged.
A quick fact check is, of course, easy to do because we’re all completely surrounded by well-established, purpose-built storytelling machines, such as smartphones and TVs, for starters.
But OK, yes, we know—the Kia campaign intends to exclude storytelling devices from its “world’s first” designation; the implicit suggestion is that the Sorento is an enabler of stories. In one ubiquitous 30-second spot in the campaign—which racked up more than 170 million TV ad impressions in March alone, according to analytics firm iSpot—an announcer tells us that the Sorento is “capable of finding the most unexpected of stories, in the most unexpected of places. Those stories are out there. And they’re yours to claim. And yours to share with the world.”
That assertion is made to seem fresh and urgent thanks to a racing, string-driven classical soundtrack and random visuals—an old man in a suit carrying a birdcage walks down a dusty road, a disco ball sprinkles light on the trees in a dark forest, etc.—meant to suggest quirky, bespoke adventures.
The problem is that cars have obviously been serving an adventure-seeking, story-finding function for ages. See, for instance, Neal Cassady’s 1949 Hudson sedan, the storytelling machine that made Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” possible.
What Kia’s campaign is really about is, well, marketing about marketing. “Storytelling” is marketingspeak—trite, boilerplate, overused marketingspeak that has not only become an industry cliché, but has bled over into pop culture via social media. (Witness all the many blowhards who call themselves “storytellers” in their Instagram and Twitter bios.)
Here’s a true story: A lot of ad-world people have convinced themselves that they’re not really in the business of selling X, Y or Z. Rather, they have a higher purpose: to gather mankind around the metaphorical campfire and “engage” us all with “stories.”
Here’s another true story: A lot of the time that is delusional nonsense.
And sometimes, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein (an actual storyteller), a car is a car is a car.