Nine-year-old Korbin is not famous.
His start in life was underprivileged -- raised by his grandmother in the small town of West Point, Georgia, U.S.
But on Sunday, Korbin stepped onto the global stage that is Super Bowl.
"We are not famous," he says in the opening frame of Kia Motors’ 2019 Super Bowl commercial. "There are no stars in a sidewalk for us. No statues in our honor. We’re just a small Georgia town of complete unknowns."
The 90-second ad, created by Los Angeles-based agency David&Goliath, showcased "The Great Unknowns" who worked on the auto company’s new 2020 Telluride SUV. It featured beautiful shots of the rural landscape by Serial Pictures’ director John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless as well as commercials for Levi’s, Coca-Cola and Apple) and dramatic portraits of some of West Point’s 4,000 inhabitants by world-acclaimed photographer Martin Shoeller.
It garnered mixed reviews. But the story behind Kia’s new brand positioning and "Give It Everything" movement is one of the most important told during this year’s game.
"It was a humbling experience for all of us," said David Angelo, chairman and founder at David&Goliath, who was part of the team that immersed itself in West Point for two weeks shooting the ad. "The Kia plant opened at a time when West Point was dealing with a collapsed textile industry, it was nearly a ghost town.
"Kia truly rejuvenated the town with jobs and hope for a better life. When you walk around and talk to the people of West Point they speak about Kia in the proudest way. It was our goal to bring the small town pride to life and honor these hardworking people on the biggest stage for all the world to see."
A documentary shines a spotlight on locals who praise Kia for revitalizing the area.
The Great Unknowns is a direct boycott of celebrity endorsement -- something which showed no sign of abating this year.
Money commonly earmarked for big names has been put aside by Kia to launch a scholarship program that helps underprivileged kids like Korbin get access to higher education. A total of 16 students will be awarded grants of $5,000 which is renewed for up to three additional years or until a bachelor’s degree is earned.
It was critical for the agency and client to pull together a very real message that recognizes the "Give It Everything" work ethic in all us. It’s a sizeable challenge in a cynical world where consumers are finding it harder to differentiate between what is untrustworthy and what is authentic.
Angelo stressed: "Today, we live in a world of fake news, brands and even people. Simply put, the world is starving for something real, something authentic. In order to succeed, brands need to go back to their core and live their truth from the inside out.
"Customers are seeking it and are quick to embrace the ones that do and call out the ones that don't. There is very little tolerance for even the smallest falsehood. After all, people don’t just buy what you make, they also buy what you stand for."
He said "the reason why people are so cynical is that they don't trust advertising and they are tired of being sold to," adding that the only way brands can change the perception of advertising is if authenticity is embraced by the leadership of every organization, whether brand or agency.
Other elements of Kia’s integrated campaign included a huge OOH presence before the game, and post-Super Bowl 60-second and 30-second cut-downs of the ad. A digital rollout includes static and HTML5 banners across lifestyle and shopping websites and four feature-focused videos that will run in pre-roll.
Saad Chehab, vice president, marketing communications, Kia Motors America, added: "Today marks a new direction for Kia and one that has been a long time in the making. We’ve spent the last 10-plus years quietly improving our vehicles by hiring the best designers, engineers and assembly line workers. In other words, ‘Giving It Everything.’
"And instead of using a celebrity in our Super Bowl ad, we chose to honor the hard-working people of America, starting with the thousands of men and women at our U.S.-based manufacturing plant.
"At Kia, we are fueled by an unstoppable spirit to try harder, work smarter and sweat every detail, and this year our spotlight shines on people who have defied odds and exceeded expectations. People like us."