If you ever seriously contemplated how you’d decide between the blue pill or the red pill then you’re in the right target market for Kia’s new K900 (read: you’re old enough to remember when The Matrix first came out and you’re hopefully well enough established in your career to be in the luxury car market). That moment in The Matrix when wise sage Morpheus offers Neo an option between two pills was seminal. It forced Neo to choose between two paths: the one he knows, or an unknown one.
Kia is borrowing this analogy for the release of its K900, the brand’s first luxury-class vehicle, daring people to challenge the luxury they know and consider stepping into a K900. And as teased earlier on, Morpheus will be the all-knowing guide.
In “The Truth,” a couple comes face to face with Laurence Fishburne, reprising his role as Morpheus, who’s manning a valet stand. Morpheus presents a couple, looking to simply retrieve their car, with two keys: the blue key, with which they’ll go back to the luxury they know; or the red key, which will cause them to never look at luxury the same again. The couple takes the red key and they’re on their way to a whole new high-end experience.
Colin Jeffery, ECD/managing partner at David&Goliath, the agency behind the ad, says the idea behind the campaign was to elevate the fact that Kia is a challenger brand in the luxury market. It’s certainly not the most expected choice of luxury car, but the hope is that you’ll be rewarded by an unusual choice.
“It’s tough to enter the luxury category, so we asked ourselves, how do we change perceptions? How do we get people to question the luxury they know? We just want people to get into the K900 and get them to put it on their consideration list,” says Jeffery. “The Matrix just felt like a fertile place to play. The movie at its core was about perception versus reality and questioning what’s real. From a core audience standpoint the movie came out in 1999, the core audience being in late 30s to 50s. And it’s a rite of passage movie with characters that are part of pop culture so we were fairly confident that it would have that broad appeal.”
Jeffery says that as a marketer and a challenger brand, Kia likes to do things differently and take on the competition with its own tone and voice. He calls it the Kia smile. “With the younger work, like with the hamsters, the smile is a little bigger. And with some of the other work, it’s more subtle."
Naturally, “The Truth” brings with it a Kia smile, and it’s not at all what you’d expect given the set-up of the spot. As the couple drives off in their luxurious K900, all full of surprise-looks and grins, Morpheus appears in the back seat. He starts by outlining all of the swank details of the car but then takes a strange pivot: he pulls out a pitch pipe and starts belting out some serious opera. “The Morpheus character is this all-knowing being, very wise and never really cracks a smile," says Jeffery. "He’s very stern and solemn. Then to see him break into this beautiful opera piece, it’s something no one would dream that he would do. It’s a subtle smile, refined and elegant, yet unexpected.”
Unexpected. To be sure. Successful? It remains to be seen. Where the riff on the blue-pill, red-pill was a nice fit, this "smile" might be more of a grimace in the minds of those Matrix fans the spot is trying to appeal to. Though as Morpheus reaches the opera’s crescendo, the whole world around the car gets all Matrix-y, with lights exploding and cars flying through the air, reminding us why we liked the film so much in the first place.