Kia's iconic dancing and singing hamsters are back in a new ad for the Kia Soul brand of cars after a two-year hiatus.
Kia Motors (KIMTF America's COO Michael Sprague says, "After two years, our dealers and consumers and many other people kept telling us, bring back the hamsters. We want to see the hamsters again. They're so iconic."
The hamsters, which the automaker first brought to the company's advertising campaign in 2009, have made appearances over the years performing to such hits as LMFAO's smash hit "Party Rock Anthem" to Lady Gaga's "Applause" and Maroon 5's "Animal."
The latest advertising campaign, set to debut in 34,000 movie theaters across the United States is called "The World Needs More Soul."
The commercial's director Colin Jeffery says, "This year, the idea of playing into a pop culture moment again where there is a lot of divide in the world at the moment and maybe we can give people just a little reason to get together and celebrate our differences and use music to unify people."
The ad features Nathaniel Rateliff, front man of bluegrass sensation, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, trading guitar licks with a banjo-playing hamster who steps out of a Kia Soul and builds to include 30 instruments representing 20 different cultures from around the world.
Kia Motors America Manager of Advertising Kathryn Cima says, "This is one of our most ambitious commercials yet. Just because of the number of people and cultures represented in it." Kia says the commercial production required nearly 3,000 hours of computer generated graphics to bring the hamsters to life.
The hamsters have helped Kia break through the clutter of automotive advertising. Sprague says, "We want to take a non-traditional approach to our advertising. We know consumers nowadays with the advent of DVR are skipping TV commercials. Whereas in a cinema. They are there. They are contained, we know they want to be entertained while they are sitting there waiting for the next movie to play so we thought this was perfect way to show something that is entertaining."
The 60-second "Soul Jam" spot starts as a music jam session with Rateliff and a hamster then morphs into a global dance party complete with Mariachi trumpets, Scottish bagpipes and a ukulele.
While the hamster commercials may be entertaining, they also appear to be getting viewers off of their couches and into Kia showrooms.
"Our dealers told us that they drove traffic into their dealerships. People came in who already owned a Kia and said hey, when are the hamsters coming back. We heard it at auto shows, industry events. We constantly heard, when are the hamsters coming back, so we thought now was the right time," says Sprague.
In the first year of the Soul's launch, Kia sold 31,000 of them and in 2015 that number had increased to 146,000.