ANALYSIS: EDITOR’S COMMENT - Adland is liable for the Kia Cars Di and Dodi lookalike ad

You may have read the avalanche of condemnation of Kia Cars’ ’Di Lookalike’ ad this week and thought, ’That’s nothing to do with me.’ You’d be wrong.

You may have read the avalanche of condemnation of Kia Cars’ ’Di

Lookalike’ ad this week and thought, ’That’s nothing to do with me.’

You’d be wrong.

For those of you who missed it, the Korean car-maker’s agency came up

with the brilliant wheeze of hiring Di and Dodi lookalikes for a US

script that entailed a Kia car escaping a horde of motorcycle-riding

paparazzi. Suddenly there’s outrage: the lookalike hired is supposed to

have walked out in disgust; Kia (UK) has disassociated itself from the

ad, the agency has scrapped the commercial. Storm in a US tea-cup?

Well, no, not exactly. The ad was never to have been shown here and none

of its creators (lookalike aside) were British. However, the story was

all over the British press this week. The headlines failed to mention

the US. You had to make it quite far down the story to discover there

was never any intention of running it here.

In fact, Mark Quinn, the managing director of Kia (UK), was genuinely


Nevertheless, the story - or the headlines - registers with the British

public as another exam-ple of insensitive admen shamelessly exploiting a

tragic situation to sell a product. It is of no consequence that the

admen aren’t British, or that the regulatory codes would not allow the

ad to run here anyway - even if there had been the intention to do


Once again it highlights the dangers of the public’s contact with

advertising through editorial. It so often concerns matters of taste and


Although the industry scoffs at the publicity a single complaint can

create, it is a serious matter. Right may be on the adman’s side, but

that angle is never going to sell copies.

It’s why, in a personal capacity, I disagree with Campaign’s leader this

week (I don’t necessarily write them). The general public won’t know, or

care, that political ads are not policed - should the current

shenanigans come to that. When the parties transgress, as surely they

will, the public will just think it’s ’in-sensitive admen shamelessly

exploiting ... etc ...’ And, they will be encouraged to think that by

the press coverage, particularly when things go wrong and the party spin

doctors attempt damage limitation by piling the blame on their ad

agencies. It all adds up to an invitation from the ad industry to the

politicians to bring advertising into disrepute.

Ads can’t have footnotes explaining away obscure creative work. Once

they are out, agencies must let go. The same goes with causing


The industry can’t claim ’nothing to do with us, guv’, even if it’s


The fact will not be registered. It suits the general media and the

public to lump all admen and advertising together. We can’t just leave

it to chance that they will understand the true story.