KIA Soul Hamsters Fail to Make Ghetto Fabulous
When it comes to cute, it's hard to beat hamsters. They're soft and cuddly, and most people have some positive memory of having them as pets - either at home, at a friend's, or in the classroom.
The non-living version became a sensation last year when Zhu-Zhu pets were the must-have toy for the pre-teen set. Suddenly, hamsters - living and stuffed - went from cute to cool. And when sex can't be used to sell, cool is.
Enter the advertising campaign for the Kia Soul featuring hamsters. It has a catchy tune with the hook, "You could go with this/Or you could go with that." It makes a comparison between the Kia Soul compact station wagon and mundane objects like a toaster or a car cut out of a cardboard box. The hamsters roll down "Hamsterdam" Avenue in what is the Hamster version of New York City. And to add to the cool, the hamsters are dressed in hoodies and baggy clothes to look like urban youths.
The message: The Soul is a great car if you're a young city-dweller who likes rap music.
But I don't see it that way. If Kia really wanted to portray its "youth" model as being just right for city kids, why not actually show city kids? White, black, Hispanic, Asian, doesn't matter. Why not all of them? The hamsters are condescending and insulting to urban, and especially urban African American, culture.
Kia has taken a chance and failed to try to make urban look cute and cuddly. There is nothing cute and cuddly about it. It's hard for me to talk about a culture in which I have no direct experience, but I have a lot of respect for the norms that exist. It may not be the ideal image for everyone, but it sure is the ideal for the target demographic the ads are trying to reach.Continued on the next page