Kia Canada gets digital to promote its new K5

Who: Kia Canada and Innocean Worldwide Canada.

What: “Live your life all-in,” an all-digital launch campaign for the automaker’s new model, the K5. It replaces the Optima nameplate Kia had used since 2000.

When & Where: The campaign broke last month with six-, 15- and 30-second ads running exclusively online across search, social, display and online video (there’s also an email component). The channels were specifically chosen to match the media consumption habits of the K5’s target demographic of older millennial / younger Gen Z, with messages “hyper-targeted” towards would-be buyers as they move through the purchase funnel. The campaign is running through December.

Why: It’s about creating awareness of the K5 and its features (including all-wheel drive, a first for a Kia midsize and a big draw for automotive gear-heads), with the goal of driving its target audience—described as “adrenaline-seeking males”  35-44—to the K5 page on the Kia Canada website.

How: The creative uses global assets, although the cut itself is unique to Canada. It’s attractive but fairly standard car advertising, with lots of interior and exterior beauty shots and a voiceover about how Kia “put it all on the table” with “all of the attention, none of the convention” for this vehicle. Cool blue smoke effects, though.

The media strategy: The K5 is a mid-size car competing in a crowded category, with a specific skew towards a segment that spends much of its media time online. Research also suggested that the K5 holds a lot of appeal among tech-savvy males, said Jeff Norton, Innocean’s senior director of strategic planning.

The campaign is using precision-targeting to deliver specific messages around brand pillars including design, safety, comfort, power and control. “You don’t get to do that with TV [where] you kind of have this blasting, awareness message,” said Caitlin Rudnick, vice-president, group account director at Innocean.

“It’s a vehicle where you are paying for more of the bells and whistles and the creature comforts and you start to get into more features that are nice to have, like turbo engines, and all-wheel drive,” said Norton. “It’s much more of a driver’s car.”

In a strange year, automakers are prioritizing digital: Automakers have traditionally relied on auto shows for splashy product launches, but they have been forced to adopt other strategies during the pandemic. Hyundai revealed its 2021 Elantra during a live stream event in March that attracted nearly 800,000 combined views, while GMC Canada recently partnered with Twitter Canada for a six-minute video reveal of its new Hummer EV.

“This year has been a lot of forced experimentation due to Covid,” said Norton. “This experimentation will obviously continue, and there will be some learning brand by brand based on results. I think we’ll see more different approaches in the short-term, before we see more common approaches in the long-term.”

The Canadian difference: Canada’s highly targeted, digital approach for the K5 is markedly different to the one used by Kia in U.S., where it has adopted a splashy, big-budget strategy that included replacing Audi as the primary automotive sponsor for The Emmys—a sponsorship the German automaker “jealously guarded and heavily utilized” for several years according to Forbes—as well as integration with the hit show America’s Got Talent.

“It’s almost like they were looking for buyers maybe five to 10 years younger,” said Norton of the U.S. strategy. “Generally the U.S. has higher disposable income, and they can afford to buy a class up [the K5 starts at $29,595] earlier in life,” said Norton. “A vehicle that is a mid-size and mid-price car here is actually much more affordable there and can be seen much more as a fun to drive and young single guy’s car—25-35 versus 35-45.”


Chris Powell