Why Kia Dropped the Celebs and Made 'Give It Everything' Its New Rallying Cry

Muse talks to David&Goliath about the new work

We've seen quietly inspiring automotive ads on the Super Bowl before—usually from Fiat Chrysler brands like RAM and Jeep. But with Chrysler sitting out the big game this year, another automaker stepped in with a Chrysler-esque piece of work: Kia and its new "Give It Everything" mantra. 

Kia aired a 90-second spot, created by David&Goliath and directed by John Hillcoat of Serial Pictures, that focused on the residents of West Point, Georgia, home to the Kia plant that made the new Telluride SUV. 

The brand has used various celebrities in recent comic Super Bowl ads (starring Melissa McCarthy, Christopher Walken and Pierce Brosnan), but the new :90 is almost anti-celebrity. The beautiful drawn sketches of the West Point residents portrays them as the "Great Unknowns," who'll never be famous but who find meaning in their hard work and perseverance. 

2020 Kia Telluride | Give It Everything

Kia says it took the money it would have paid a celeb and created The Great Unknowns Scholarship to assist eligible students who plan to continue their education in college or vocational school programs. 

The Avis-esque line "Give It Everything," which will become the brand's new positioning, is meant to embrace Kia's challenger brand status. Muse spoke with David&Goliath founder David Angelo about the campaign. 

Muse: This is very different from what Kia has done in the past with lighthearted celebrity endorsements. Why change now? 
David Angelo: Since day one, Kia has always stood for the little guy. They've had to work harder, be more nimble despite being outspent by the competition. They succeeded by challenging the status quo every step of the way, from offering an industry-leading warranty and world-class design to marketing hip-hop dancing hamsters. We helped Kia connect with people through pop culture in the most authentic way possible. This year is no different in that Kia has maintained its unique challenger voice, but instead of doing a traditional Super Bowl spot featuring celebrities, we wanted to create something a little more sustaining. This is the launch of the new Kia brand direction and tagline. It's less of a traditional ad campaign and more a movement for the challenger in all of us. In fact, we've been laddering up to this moment for the past 10 years. Over that time we have been gaining momentum for the brand—from outstanding design and craftmanship, to winning best in initial quality two years in a row, to creating vehicles that constantly challenge the conventions of their categories. 

"Give It Everything" is an homage to every single person who touches this brand, starting with the hard-working people of a small Georgia town who are not famous for who they are. They are famous for what they do. What they build. We call these people of West Point "The Great Unknowns." Over the past decade, they have delivered some of the best quality cars in the country, like the all-new Telluride. In fact, "Give It Everything" is an homage to all the great unknowns out there. And we wanted to go even further by taking the money we would have spent on a celebrity and creating The Great Unknowns Scholarship to provide eligible students who embody the "Give It Everything" spirit with an opportunity to pursue their academic dreams. It's part of the movement signifying Kia's long term commitment to education. 

We felt there's no better time in the history of Kia to announce the "Give It Everything" new brand positioning than on the world's biggest stage. 

How did John Hillcoat get involved, and what did he bring to the production? 
John is one of those directors who can capture authenticity in the most epic way possible. When we presented him with the creative, he immediately got it. And that meant everything to us. Outside of his commercial work and feature films, he's also known for working with non-actors and getting compelling performances from them. He's got an innate way of making real people look and feel powerful and relatable. His work very often has a social/human backstory, showing real people and the challenges in their lives. That was vital for a project like this, which is about a community and its journey. Hillcoat embedded himself in the town of West Point many weeks before the start of production to really immerse himself in the area. He truly is an example of a director, of a person, who gives it everything. Just ask anyone who has worked with him.

How did you choose which people to profile? 
Like anything, we started with a filter for authenticity. We wanted to find people who represented the spirit of West Point and all its glory. We wanted to tell the full and rich story of a town that had seen huge changes in the last 10-20 years. From its days as a thriving mill town to a near ghost town as industry went overseas. Finally, to the hope and optimism of the last decade when Kia opened shop. So we needed to capture a fair number of older people who'd actually lived through the transition. We wanted their stories. And we also wanted faces who could convey those stories. 

When we sat down and talked to these people, we got a sense of who they are and what they would be like on camera. It was pretty incredible when you're filming someone who is speaking their truth. It's easy. The words just flow, and you connect immediately. These people believe in what they are doing and have a true sense of pride for where they live. Their stories were so amazing and inspiring, we ended up filming more footage than we could ever possibly use. 

How did the "Give It Everything" line come about, and why is it right for Kia at this moment in time? 
Actually, "Give It Everything" wrote itself—every single person who touches the Kia brand on a daily basis has had a hand in giving rise to this new brand positioning. They have given it their all to help us get to this point. 

"Give It Everything" is born out of the unstoppable spirit of the Kia brand. And if there's one thing I've learned over the years about this scrappy challenger brand, it's that they've never backed down from a challenge. They can achieve anything if they give it everything. And they have, year after year; they've demonstrated this by trying harder, working smarter, building better cars and giving it everything in all that they do. Why now? Again, we've been working towards this moment for 10 years, quietly building our reputation, challenging convention, becoming a viable competitor in the category from being a virtual unknown.

And honestly, this is a mantra we all can live by. We all have the ability to realize our dreams if we give it everything. Yes, there will always be naysayers, but that has never stopped us. It has actually fueled us to learn from our mistakes and make better products and champion our authentic truth. It gives us a standard of accountability—because if you don't give it everything, what are you giving?

Everything is so political these days. Do you expect people will react to the spot through a political lens—of American vs. overseas jobs—or focus on its simpler message of hard work and underdog pride? 
The beauty of this campaign is that it is so honest and real and speaks directly to the heart. Its authentic nature is a contrast to the noise of politics and brings us back to the everyday people who work hard to make great things happen. Our hope and belief is that "Give It Everything" is something everyone can relate to, can feel deep within them, can rally around. We're celebrating the great underdogs—in essence, Kia, the West Point workers and every person who takes pride in the work they do, day in and out, and never gets recognized for it. And there's no better place to honor the underdog than the Super Bowl. After all, those two teams had to give it everything to get there.

How important is it for advertisers today to make more than just a flashy commercial for the Super Bowl and really try to make a difference in the world? 
I think now more than ever, there is a great opportunity for brands to inspire people rather than just sell them products. I've always believed that the goal is to serve the brand and the rest will follow; and if we all embrace the truth of the brand, as opposed to our own self-interests, the world will be a better place because of it. 

We have a real opportunity to shift the course from just making ads to inspiring people and brands to embrace their core truth and go all in. And today, people are looking for that—they want more authenticity, they want brands to stand for something, and they want brands to be held accountable.

"Give It Everything" is our heartbeat—it's who we are. And when you know who you are, you live it in everything that you do. 

David Angelo Founder & Chairman
Yumi Prentice President
Bobby Pearce Chief Creative Officer
Mark Koelfgen Executive Creative Director/Copywriter
Marc Schwarzberg Executive Creative Director/Head of Art
Frauke Tiemann Group Creative Director/Art Director
John O'Hea Group Creative Director/Art Director
Steve Clarke Group Creative Director/Copywriter
Basil Cowieson Group Creative Director/Art Director
James Cohen Group Creative Director/Copywriter
Stephanie Kohnen Creative Director/Art Director
Mark Monteiro Copywriter
Paul Albanese Managing Director, Broadcast Production
Curt O'Brien Executive Producer
Natalia Celis Junior Producer
Cara Nieto Executive Art Producer
Natasha Royzina Senior Business Affairs Manager
Renee Welch Head of Strategy
Ashleigh Edwards Strategy Director
Jeff Cannata Communications Planning Director
Natalie Gomez Senior Social Media Strategist
Genie Lara Associate Director of Project Management
Paul Stephens Senior Project Manager
Amanda Bercovitch Junior Project Manager
Nina Pena Senior Creative Resource Manager
Jeff Moohr Managing Director
Jay Mattingly Account Director
Kylie Lemasters Account Supervisor
Nicole Pressman Account Executive
Salim Collins Account Coordinator
Russ Wortman Automotive Specialist/Kia Product Information Manager
Peter Bassett Managing Director, Integrated Production & Technology Services
Justine Kleeman Executive Digital Producer
Chris Mead Associate Creative Director/Copywriter
Kris Wong Senior Art Director
Guilherme Grossi Senior Copywriter
Gabriel Nogueira da Gama Senior Art Director
Peter Watson Junior Art Director
Caleb Nyberg Copywriter
Tucker Stosic Junior Art Director
Matthew Dickman Creative Director/Copywriter
Sarah Masket Management Supervisor, Digital
Gabriella Mourad Assistant Account Executive, Digital

Production Company: Serial Pictures
John Hillcoat Director
Philippe Le Sourd - DP
Violaine Etienne Founding Partner/Executive Producer
Jennifer Gee Head of Production
Tracy Broaddus Producer

Editorial Company: EXILE
Carol Lynn Weaver Executive Producer
Jennifer Locke Head of Production
Brittany Carson Producer
Kirk Baxter Editor
Conor O’Neill Editor
Brett Holman Asst Editor
Rex Lowry Asst Edtior

Editorial Company: Spinach
Adam Bright  Managing Director, Editor 
Federico Brusilovsky Editor (Courtesy of Lost Planet)
Jason Dopko Editor (Courtesy of Lost Planet)
Rachel Simmer Assistant Editor (Courtesy of Lost Planet)
Lee Bacak Jr. Assistant Editor 
Jonathan Carpio Executive Producer
David Cooke Associate Producer

Post: A52
Urs Furrer Visual Effects Supervisor
Patrick Nugent Sr. Executive Producer
Stacy Kessler Producer

Licensed Music:
“Back to the Ocean” by Dan Romer

Sound Design Company: Barking Owl
Kelly Bayett Creative Director/Partner
Ashley Benton Producer
Eric Potter Car Recordist
Morgan Johnson Sound Designer

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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