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.