Australian yuppie hipsters … crikey, who better to pitch cars in Kia commercials? The answer appears to be anyone, judging by the pervasive negative reactions to the automaker's "Man of Now"/"Woman of Now" spots from ad agency Innocean. The spots popped up Down Under in January and were panned by pundits at the time, but they're just now gaining global traction (and fresh abuse) following recent airings during Wimbledon coverage on Australia's Channel 7. The Guardian, among others, asks if these might be the most irritating ads ever made, and warns viewers, "Once you've seen the spots, you can't unsee them, so be careful what you click for."
Each ad follows its subject through bustling city streets as the Man and Woman hurry to reach their Kias, extolling their own "virtues" in rapid-fire, brand-building beat poetry from hell. The "Man of Now" informs us: "I push the envelope, push a button, push a pram … push 'em real good. I wear the pants, I wear aftershave, I wear the blame … and I wear it well." Wow, I wonder how many roommates he goes through in a year. The "Woman of Now" confides: "I'm texting, typing, LOL-ing, OMG-ing, I'm digitally in touch, but not retouched. I'm a storytelling, canteen-helping, fundraising, muffin-making, party-going yoga lover." Hey, aren't we all these days?
This stuff's easy to criticize as smug nonsense. Yet, I'm not in the hater camp. Though it's largely unintentional (I think), the commercials actually do a fine job of both reflecting and skewering cultural modernism and revealing the shallow stereotypes that some self-styled "men and of women of now" have become. Viewed thusly, these ads are a hoot—irritating, yes, but also strangely compelling as warped signposts of the times we live in. (There's an ironic bit in both spots where the Man and Woman briefly bump into each other, but they're too self-absorbed to break their stride, too focused on their personal manifestos to really see the world around them.)
Kia has been a good sport, with a rep explaining that the campaign mirrors "the modern lifestyle—it's a metaphor," and adding, "Some people don't get it. You can't please everybody." The automaker even embraced a parody from Priceless Productions, which features a beefy rugby hooligan type who brags, "I spent $20 on my mum for Christmas. My haircut cost $80. I'm international, I'm interconnected, I'm interrupting people all the time because everything I say is f---ing hilarious." Good on ya! Now, go drop-kick a giant hamster, mate! ("We think it's great," Kia said of the spoof.)
In fact, the real spots play like parodies, and while that presumably isn't what Kia intended, they're generating commentary and heightened awareness without being offensive—and they're poised to go viral. That surely beats driving into instant obscurity, which is the road most car commercials take, after all.