- Kia is closely monitoring social-media reaction to its slimmed-down hamster pitchmen and discovering not everyone likes the new look.
- The skinny rodents were introduced in a commercial for the redesigned 2014 Kia Soul.
- Kia told Edmunds that some people on Facebook prefer the pudgier hamsters.
"If you go to YouTube and read the comments, people love the (new) hamsters," Kia's Michael Sprague told Edmunds. "If you go to the Soul Facebook page and read the comments, they are owners and passionate fans. They like the old hamsters because they identified with them when they bought their car."
Speaking of all the comments, Sprague said this "allows us to do a lot of different things going forward from a social-media standpoint. We can go out and say, where should we take the next campaign? The slimmed-down hamsters or the more portly hamsters?"
Sprague, executive vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America, was interviewed at a press event.
The portly hamsters have been featured in each Soul TV commercial since the car debuted in 2009. While only four TV commercials were made from 2009 to 2012 for the previous generation Soul, the commercials won several awards and the hamsters have become among the most recognizable advertising icons.
The ads have been credited with the Soul's success. The car's sales greatly exceeded the automaker's predictions back in 2009 and 2010, and the Soul has become Kia's number two selling vehicle in the United States. Last year Kia sold about 115,800 Souls. The Optima is number one, totaling around 152,400 in 2012.
The 90-second TV spot for the redesigned 2014 Soul is the fifth ad to feature hamsters. The spot features the portly, hip-hop hamsters in their baggy clothes pumping iron, undergoing rigorous exercise routines in between scenes showing development of the redesigned Soul. Lady Gaga's "Applause" is the background music.
Then, in the last 15 seconds of the commercial, the new Soul rolls up to a red carpet in front of a theater that is hosting an unspecified event. The car doors open, and the hamsters appear in tuxedos, buffed, coiffed and significantly thinner, as each walks down the red carpet to cheering fans. The tag line "totally transformed" appears on a photo of the new Soul at the end of the commercial.
"We were trying to show that the vehicle had been transformed so we just extended that over to the hamsters," Sprague said. "Part of our job is to continue to involve our marketing campaign to try to connect with consumers at different levels and still keep it fun and interesting."
The ad debuted in August during the "MTV Video Music Awards" show.
The hamster commercial took about eight to nine months to create because of the complicated special effects. At this moment, Sprague said the automaker has not determined the next advertising campaign for the Soul, suggesting that it probably would not appear until the fall of 2014.
However, he said each time they begin work on a new commercial, they go through a series of questions.
"Do we want to continue with the hamsters because we do that every time? Have we extended it enough? Has it gone far enough? Do we need to try and come up with another idea? We felt that this is an all new vehicle and the (skinny) hamsters could help introduce the vehicle," Sprague said.
Edmunds says: Fat or skinny? Which Kia hamster shape do you prefer?