This sixty second commercial for the Kia Soul was named "Automotive Ad of the Year" by Nielsen in 2009, and won a 2010 EFFIE award as the most effective ad in the "David vs. Goliath" category for smaller or up-and-coming brands. It debuted in movie theatres in March 2009, and moved to television in May.
The commercial opens with a long shot of a suburban subdivision. Cut to: a street in the subdivision, all the houses look the same. It's early morning, no people are out and about, there are no cars on the street. Then a single garage door opens, but instead of a car, inside the garage is a large hamster exercise wheel (large, as in, the size of an automobile). The human-sized hamster in the wheel starts it up, starts running. But the wheel isn't free, it's fixed to an axle. You see several shots of the commuter route into a more urban center, but there are no cars anywhere, just lots of hamsters and their exercise wheels, not moving forward, but running in their wheels in the middle of the street without going anywhere, even on the freeways of downtown Los Angeles.
The wheels squeak.
Finally, 23 seconds into a commercial, as we watch a row of hamster wheels stopped at a red light, up to the traffic light rolls a candy apple red Kia Soul. Reaction shot of a hamster in its wheel dropping its jaw. The red car's occupants roll down the window, and we see that they too, are hamsters. We can hear their stereo playing. The hamsters in the Kia upnod.
Clearly, the hamsters are into electronica, as they are blasting "Fort Knox" by Cape Town's Goldfish on their iPod.
Or are they? The next time the commercial came on, you might hear "Do What You Do" by MARZ ft. Pack and Mumiez playing on the car's stereo. Or The Potbelleez cranking away with "Junkyard." (There were five versions of the commercial in all; other versions featured the electroclash sound of Calvin Harris's "Colours," or "Bounce" by Toronto's MSTRKRFT feat. N.O.R.E.)
When the light turns green, the cool hamsters in the Kia drive off, nodding in time to the music, and the rest of the commercial is quick jump cuts showing off the exterior of the car as it weaves in and out of the mundane hamster wheels on the road, and shots of the hamsters in the car flashing their iPod, grooving to the beat (the interior speakers of the car have LEDs that pulse in time to the music) as they make their way to a rooftop parking lot.
At no time during the advertisement does a voice mention the name of the car or any of its features.
During the last 5 seconds of the commercials, there are titles announcing the car's name, that it features Bluetooth, gets 31 MPG, its base price is under $14,000, and the manufacturer: Kia.
This was the first commercial from creative agency David&Goliath that introduced the soul hamsters as the mascots for the car. Media company @radical.media shot the commercial. Apparently, when asked who would have the chops to make this happen cinematically, they thought, well we loved the eye candy of The Cell and The Fall so why not hire Tarsem Singh as a director?
And why not get Brendan Galvin (Veronica Guerin, Flight of the Phoenix) as director of photography? (Singh and Galvin would collaborate again on Immortals and Mirror, Mirror). The hamsters for the most part were computer generated, thanks to the work of
Framestore (which had won the Oscar for special effects in 2008 for The Golden Compass, and was known as one of the shops on 2005's The Dark Knight).
The success of this commercial lead to several sequels.
Anthony Krupi, "Kia Soul Finds 'New Way to Roll.'" AdWeek. February 26, 2009. http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/kia-soul-finds-new-way-roll-105349 (January 10, 2013)
Åsk Wäppling, "Kia Soul - Hamsters - (2009) :60 (USA)," Adland, March 5, 2009,
http://adland.tv/commercials/kia-soul-hamsters-2009-60-usa (January 10, 2013)