By on February 17, 2016

Kia Niro Band

Capitalizing on the buzz surrounding its Super Bowl ad, “Walken Closet” with Christopher Walken, Kia showed hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Optima to assembled members of the media.

Some automakers hire live musicians to perform during auto show press conferences, including some pretty big names. To burnish its credentials as a youth-oriented brand, Kia had a decent rock band made of teenage students studying at the School of Rock.

(Maybe it says something about today’s music, but the oldest kid in the band was 18 and every song the band played was a hit before he was born. T-Rex’s “Bang A Gong” was probably released before some of their grandparents had met. I think the most recent song was Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which came out in 1993.)

A few minutes later, I realized that marketers for the Korean automaker missed a great opportunity to further hype its midsize sedan.

The band played before Kia Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Sprague delivered his prepared presentation, which included showing the Christopher Walken ad. They also played as the new models arrived on stage, with the Optima hybrids being introduced before the new Niro hybrid utility.

The song used to play-in the Optimas: Blue Oyster Cult – “Don’t Fear The Reaper.”

You read the headline. Do I have to tell you that’s the song at the heart of Walken’s rather famous “more cowbell” sketch from “Saturday Night Live”?

As soon as I heard the opening lick, I realized that Kia missed an opportunity.

Kia already has Walken on its payroll. In addition to the Super Bowl ad, Walken has done voiceovers for other Kia commercials, which hype the Optima as the midsize sedan for non-conformists much like the “Walken Closet” spot. If Kia really wanted to show what “wild and crazy guys” they are, how hard would it have been for Sprague to introduce the new Optima, hand the mic or video screens to Walken (“and now a few more words from Christopher Walken”), then play Walken saying, “and now, more cowbell”?

Kia also used the occasion of the 2016 Chicago Auto Show media preview for the world debut of their all-new — and at least partially electron powered — compact crossover, the *Niro.

By entering the hottest segment of the market with a vehicle that will be introduced as hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, Kia is taking a risk that American frackers won’t be able to make a profit at sub $30/barrel crude oil prices. That’s a bold move even without considering all of the preparatory wells drilled in the U.S. waiting for the price to go up again. That may keep oil prices low even after the Saudis throttle down their oil exports (which they can’t really afford to do since they need the revenue to keep the kingdom financially solvent; they just raised domestic Saudi gasoline prices by as much as 50%).

*With that name, they better avoid the fire problems that Jeep, Tata and Ferrari have had with some of their early production cars.

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32 Comments on “Kia Misses Opportunity for More Cowbell...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    They should stick with the hamsters; Walken is just weird.

    As for gas prices, Kia is making the right bet. Even if prices don’t go up, CAFE requirements are. The Niro/Ioniq are better-looking alternatives to the now-hideous Prius, and the Niro arrives just as the CUV craze is fully under way. I can’t wait to test drive one.

    It’s a little hard to criticize Kia and FCA at the same time, based upon their divergent views of product line mix. FCA’s hubris will likely end in parting out the business to the highest bidders.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’m by no means an FCA fan, but the company may be making the right decision. Even if the 200 and Dart were leaps and bounds above the competition, our perception of them would still be low. FCAr’s sedans are tainted. It makes sense to go where the market is and improve the fuel efficiency of the company’s crossovers and SUVs.

      But…they actually need to do that. Maybe a hybrid version of the Grand Cherokee is in order?

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Lincoln could use him for the new Continental commercials.

  • avatar

    To your comment about the School of Rock band and the selections they played, Classic Rock is the only guitar-based Rock left with any kind of traction in mass culture.

    The last Rock album to truly penetrate the masses was close to ten years ago and titled “All The Right Reasons”…by the band everyone and their sister’s dog now loves to hate on…Nickelback.

    A co-worker of mine, who can’t be a day over 30, is on her third Optima and just loves them. Neighbor at the end of my road has “LUVMYKIA” as his vanity plate on his Sportage. I admit I don’t get it but I see them everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The last rock record, that did not include elements of “rap rock” that was the best selling album of any given year occurred in 1987. Gotta go all the way back to Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet. Linkin Park had the best selling album of 2001.

      I think that the last great rock (not metal) album to come out was Queens of the Stone Age’s “…Like Clockwork” in 2013. It’s been three years of trash.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Foley

        You didn’t like Foo Fighters “Sonic Highways”?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I really liked Sonic Highways. It’s a very good record. I’ll call it great, especially compared to what else was released at tbe time. However, I am of the option that …Like Clockwork is the best rock record since the first Audioslave album, QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf, Tool’s Lateralis, or Black Label Society’s Blessed Hellride. Songs for the Deaf is everything I love about Josh Homme + Dave Grohl being the most powerful drummer in the universe.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Take 5 minutes to cruise onto the alt rock stations, Cage the Elephant is pretty heavy with guitars. Elctro has inroads in everywhere as things evolve, but we though Buddy Holly was edgy in 1956…

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        The indie music scene is where anything of interest goes on, with the pop world mostly stuck in the same audio tropes from the late 2000s.

        Plus hey, if you like 80s synth-pop New Wave stuff, people are still making it!

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    As a long-time BOC fan, I would personally be perfectly happy to never hear that song again.

    “Overdone old pop culture reference” isn’t likely to sell more Kias. (Kiae?)

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    mebbe they could ask him what happened on the boat the night natalie wood was found floating.

  • avatar
    RHD

    If I played in a rock band, “Bang A Gong” would definitely be in the repertoire.
    A higher probability is to get hit by lightning… let’s admit it, we all imagine we’re Mick Jagger at one point or another, while rinsing out the shampoo.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    I’m not an IR expert but the main issue with oil prices is that banks can’t foreclose on overdue wells without taking the equipment and finding a new buyer. So pretty much they have two options, get in the oil business by taking the whole affair OR let frackers go forward. Combined with the Iran deal clearly hurdles, Russia going for broke, and Venezuela in desperate need of oil sales we’re likely not to see high prices return for atleast a couple years.

    Of course, this hasn’t stopped or reversed the trend of electric/hybrid buying. It’s hit a point of self-sustaining cultural awareness combined with technological acceptance. ICE’s days are long but numbered.

    Now on topic: Eh, this smacked of cheap advertising using the kids instead of an actual band and going straight for the bland white middle-age guy response of non-descript rock hits from 30 years ago.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    These types of ads/events are interesting to me because I always wonder how much influence Christoper Walken (or any celebrity) has over a large purchase such as a car.

    For other less expensive things, appliances, cologne, clothes, etc., I’d think a celebrity spokesperson is a better choice because less analysis goes into the buying decision.

    I don’t know if getting exact measurements for something likes this is even possible but it would be interesting to ask people who come to look at a Kia how much influence a celebrity spokesperson had.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Car ads are some of the lamest television there is; few of them even tell you anything about the car, and I don’t think celebrities help one bit.

      I always say that if hot girls could sell cars, Mercury would not only still be in business, but they’d be at the top of the sales chart:

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1489978/

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      I don’t think Walken is going to make you buy a Kia over any other car, but he probably makes you stop channel hopping/fast forwarding through the commercial. And simply seeing the commercial is half the battle anymore.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    Maybe Hyundai could use Walken for their Genesis commercials.

    The Creepy Continental Walken of course. “More shampanyuh”?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Naw.

      Obviously they should use Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        ’70s Genesis FTW. Apocalypse in 9/8 is almost catchy after the 3rd or 4th listen.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          My favorite Genesis albums are probably Duke and Abacab. Shrug.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            It’s hard to actually have a discussion about Genesis without sounding like Patrick Bateman. So I’ll just say this: The three distinct sound periods of Genesis* cannot and should not be compared with each other.

            *1st Period: Nursery Cryme – TLLDoB (the two albums before Nursery aren’t even worth listening to)–full-blown prog.
            2nd Period: A Trick of the Tail – And Then There Were Three–splitting the difference between pop and prog.
            3rd Period: Duke – We Can’t Dance–pop with some prog leanings. Calling All Stations never happened.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            While I do like some prog rock, I feel prog rock does better mixed with something else, or at least toned down a bit.

            I’ve never even tried to listen to the Pink Floyd albums before Dark Side of the Moon, where half the album is just one song and such.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Prog definitely is not for everybody, and long periods of listening do necessitate a little reprieve, which I usually find in ’70s folk-rock or synth-heavy New Wave.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            A fellow New Wave fan!

            I love me some New Wave. One of the best eras of popular music.


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