Saturday, June 16, 2007

Secret-ive marketing?

I keep forgetting to post about Kia's new ad campaign, which, to me, seems clearly to have been designed to play off (and satirize) the phenomenal success of The Secret. The core of each ad—the "MacGuffin," as Hitchcock would've called it—is a book of roughly biblical appearance that, when the characters open it, consists of page after page with only the word KIA in the middle of lots of white space. In the action of the various spots, the characters will talk about how their lives were ordinary and unfulfilled until they stumbled upon the "wisdom" in this particular book.

At the end of the ad I saw last night, the female spokesmodel looks earnestly into the camera after delivering her pitch and says, "Because...the more you know, the less you don't know."

And I thought, we laugh at that, but in fact so much of self-help, even at its most exalted levels, gets by on a brand of circular logic that's no less silly. I am reminded of the immortal words of Tommy Lasorda, one-time Dodger manager and Sportsthinker par excellence: "The thing you notice about losers is, they don't win."

Like, wow, Tommy.

From the mainstream guru's point of view, the trick is to make the circular reasoning not quite so obvious, which is typically done by separating the second arc of the circle from the first arc by a fair amount of disguising/diverting verbiage. If you happen have a copy of SHAM handy and want to see a perfect example, take a look at my quote from Phil McGraw's Self Matters on page 14.

...On the other hand, is that really how you want to be spending this beautiful Father's Day weekend?


a/good/lysstener said...

I saw that, too, and thought of you. It seems like they started running those commercials right after the Secret was hottest, maybe a month ago, or so. There are actually several little touches in those ads that are based on a tongue in cheek version of self-help.

Anonymous said...

Steve, funny stuff. I hadn't noticed this till I read your comment here and then I saw the ad for the first time tonight!

Anonymous said...

Actually I'm not sure that the line in the ad is as circular and self-evident as you seem to think it is. Many people from Disraeli to Trump (not that Trump is any great soothsayer), have said just the opposite: The more you know, the more you realize you don't know.

I understand that the ad is not meant to be taken at face value. The line is meant to sound silly, just as you interpreted it. Still I thought it was a point worth making.