Columns 26.5.2018 06:15 am

Orchids and Onions: Kia knows just how to turn my love for driving on

And I call bullshit on all of digital advertising’s voodoo science around ‘interactions’ and ‘reach’… anyone putting out that garbage gets an Onion.

I’ve never forgotten the moment I first had control of a car … when I managed to get it moving forward in first gear without stalling.

I have always been fascinated by cars and I have piloted everything from a Ferrari and Lamborghini to a Morris Minor. Driving has never lost is fascination for me.

The debate about “autonomous driving” has been gathering steam. This envisages a future where electronics, robotics and computers will guide vehicles without any human input.

That is like intravenous injections of green plastic nutrients into your body when you could be dining on the finest French food.

In this country, autonomous driving is some way off – although some cynics might say a version of it has already arrived because so many vehicles on our roads are not under the control of intelligent human beings …

Despite the move towards robotic transport, car manufacturers are making more interesting, faster, and more powerful cars aimed at people who love to drive.

That’s why I was drawn to the TV ad for Kia’s new Stinger high-performance sedan. The car is a radical departure for a brand which has always pitched itself as different – “The Power to Surprise” is its most well-known slogan – and because it is taking on the sporting products from the high-end German manufacturers.

Kia needs to throw a lot of marketing muscle behind the Stinger, though, because the brand is not normally associated with performance. Quality and reliability, yes, but, up to now, sportiness – well, not so much.

The challenge has been to convince loyal brand followers to give the Stinger a try.

Around the world, Kia campaigns for the car have focused on its drivability, but, here in South Africa, the brand and its agency, OFYT (Old Friends Young Talent) have managed to put a different, but effective spin on the driving enjoyment aspect.

With the de rigeur shots of the car blasting around a race-track, the ad simply asks one question: What if the future of driving, is actually driving?

It’s a great line, and it sums up the car. I think it will help Kia sell the car in this country, where many of us are not quite prepared to surrender our increasingly guilty pleasures to robots.

So, to Kia SA and OFYT, Orchids for good marketing and for reminding us (not that we really needed it) that cars are more than just means of transport.

The second biggest criminal enterprise on the planet – after drugs – is digital advertising. As much as half of all “interactions” in cyberspace come from some form of “bot” – a piece of computer code which replicates a human. And then there are the “click farms” which, for a modest fee, will drive your product or site’s all-important numbers into the stratosphere.

You can buy shares, likes, users with a few clicks. And then you can hoodwink the people who are paying you to use your allegedly enormous numbers as a medium to promote their products.

And that’s without even talking about CTRs (Click Through Rates – or the actual number of times an ad is clicked on), which are generally half a percent or less. In other words, an ad will only be seen by one in every 200 people (or bots).

For me, though, the absurdity of an industry which is doing flick-flacks to convince everyone it is effective, and honest, is the voodoo science around “interactions” and “reach”. Excuse me, but I call bullshit on all of it.

This week, we had experts telling us the cyberspace debate around the Ashwin Willemse TV walk-off had a “reach” of 3.8 billion. Stupid, uneducated person that I am, I asked an expert, Tonya Khoury, how it was possible that about one in two people on the planet were debating something about which, frankly, even the majority of South Africans don’t give a damn.

She explained – as one has to do to an old-fashioned person who still believes the oppressive lie that one and one equals two – that “reach is the number of outlets & their readership or the number of followers of any tweeter/Instagrammer. It doesn’t mean many people “read” it – it’s the reach of the story. For example #Trump 1 tweet on #Gaza garnered reach of 52m.” The entire #Gaza debate has a reach of 72 trillion – about 1 000 times the population of Earth to use my outmoded metrics…

Khoury went on that “some people call it #ImpressionData – I don’t like the term because it gives the impression that the post made an impression :)”

Exactly.

If I assessed our newspaper in the same way, I would say that because we distribute in Gauteng, and Gauteng has a population of 12 million, our reach is 12 million. But then each of those 12 million knows another ten people, so our reach is 120 million.

I cannot believe any marketer doesn’t question this.

In the end, Tonya revealed there were about 150 000 people involved in the conversation about Willemse. In other words, one in every 300 people in SA.

That’s not reach.

Anyone putting out that garbage gets an Onion and any marketer paying the slightest bit of attention to it should explain to his company’s shareholders why he’s wasting their cash listening to bullshit…

Brendan Seery

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