Kia, which generally shies away from product-placement opportunities, is testing a new marketing outlet by partnering in a new, original, scripted Web series produced by Fox Digital Entertainment and airing on the revamped Myspace website.
“Wolfpack of Reseda,” billed as an unconventional comedy about the doldrums of suburban life with a monster-movie twist, debuted Feb. 16 on the former social-networking site and features one of Kia’s best-selling models, the Soul compact.
“We haven’t done a whole lot of (product placements), or else they’ve been extremely minor,” Tim Chaney, director-marketing for Kia Motors America tells WardsAuto in a phone interview from Southern California. “To be quite frank, we’re not attracted to (product placements) for a number of reasons.”
Earlier projects featuring Kia models were “take it or leave it” propositions, with the auto maker lacking much control, he says. But the situation is just the opposite with “Wolfpack of Reseda.”
“Fox Digital Entertainment was great to work with, and they were really collaborative on (how the Soul should be portrayed),” Chaney says. “We’re attracted to partners that give us custom opportunities to develop things that are unique, as opposed to cookie-cutter opportunities out of the drawer.”
The Web series, which features a mundane car-insurance salesman who is bitten by a wolf and transformed into a confident dude tooling around town in a white Kia Soul, resulted from conversations begun a year-and-a-half-ago between Kia’s agency, Initiative Media and Fox Studios/Fox Digital Entertainment.
Kia had asked Initiative to seek out new-media opportunities for its models in online videos, Chaney says.
After reviewing a number of scripts, “Wolfpack of Reseda” appealed to Kia marketers because it showcased a transformation not unlike the design-focused metamorphosis the Korean brand had undergone in recent years, starting with the Soul’s introduction in March 2009.
Being part of “Wolfpack of Reseda,” described as a cross between the movies “Fight Club” and “Office Space,” is an experiment Kia hopes will reach the Soul’s target audience of young male buyers through a medium to which they increasingly flock.
“That customer is not watching as much TV, is harder to reach and is consuming a lot of online video,” Chaney says.
Unlike some placements that focus heavily on the product, such as the Kia Optima sedan’s not-so-subtle appearance last fall in the A&E series “The Glades,” the Soul rarely is seen in the first three episodes of “Wolfpack of Reseda.”
Chaney says this is by design. “That’s exactly what we were looking for; to do something a little more natural, a little more organic, a little more focused on entertaining, compelling content that (the targeted customer) would want to watch.”
The Soul’s screen time doesn’t “hit you over the head with a car ad,” he says. “We do that already in a different place and time.”
Roger Mincheff, president of Myspace Entertainment, tells WardsAuto that “Wolfpack of Reseda” is being set up as a franchise. He hopes it will have the same staying power and ability to grab viewers as Kia’s famous hamsters, which have promoted the Soul on TV, online and in print over the past three years.
Ideally, Mincheff sees “Wolfpack of Reseda,” being aired on Thursdays until April 5, making the leap to television and other mediums.
“Online is absolutely the mechanism to launch the franchise, but I think all the partners involved look at the franchise very holistically, where we would love to see the project translate into television, film, iTunes, mobile, etc.,” he says, noting partner Fox “has all of those extensions under its roof.”
Taking the series beyond its 8-episode, Web-only first season is not Kia’s primary goal, Chaney says, but he acknowledges the brand would benefit from broader distribution.
Kia sees the tie-in with Myspace as a plus, he says, noting there were some questions about the former top social-networking site’s future. But Chaney was sold after he learned of the website’s “aggressive and ambitious” plans to rebrand itself as an entertainment destination, rather than compete with the likes of Facebook.
“We’re confident Myspace definitely has the right plan and knows what they want to be when they grow up,” he says.