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Kia claims mobile advertising outperforms traditional Web campaigns

Automaker Kia Motors claims it is having success using mobile campaigns to drive sales of its Soul and Sorrento lines of motor vehicles.

The automotive manufacturer has teamed up with Internet radio provider Pandora to promote the Kia Soul and with Web magazine producer Zinio to push the Kia Sorrento. The campaigns have produced significantly better response rates than comparable traditional Web advertising, per Kia.

?We see differences between the desktop ads and mobile ads we have used to market our products,? said David Schoonover, national manager of customer relationship management and non-affiliate marketing for Kia, Irvine, CA. ?Every single time we?ve had that situation [where we have used both], mobile has outperformed desktop.

?I think that speaks a lot about the power and opportunity of mobile,? he said. ?Obviously, it is still something advertisers are figuring out ? how to leverage, how to speak to the mobile community.

?But, mobile is part of our marketing effort, and we?re building it into our core marketing plan going forward.?

Kia Motors is the second largest auto manufacturer in South Korea and is owned by Hyundai Kia Automotive Group.

Kia Soul and Pandora
Kia has launched a branded radio station on the Pandora Internet radio service, called the ?Kia Soul Station,? that is available on Pandora?s mobile application.

The station features music targeted at Generation-Y consumers. It runs banner ads for the Kia Soul near the bottom of the page, and also lets users watch video ads for the Soul within the application.

Here is a screen grab of a Kia Soul ad in the Pandora application:

The Soul Station is 66 percent more popular than the Pandora automotive average, according to Kia.

?The Pandora audience generally lines up with the Soul?s target demographic,? Mr. Schoonover said. ?We have put a lot of funding into the Soul, from a digital standpoint.

?Being that the Gen-Y audience is online, that?s where we want to be,? he said. ?From a target standpoint, and from the fact that Pandora lines up with that target, we started with advertising with Pandora in traditional display environment before soul.

But, when the radio service was expanding into the mobile space ? just as the Soul was launching ? Kia made the transition onto the application.

?It was a very natural fit to continue our relationship with Pandora as they moved into the mobile environment,? Mr. Schoonover said.

Kia Sorrento and Zinio
Kia is taking advantage of the larger display of the iPad by advertising on digital magazine provider Zinio?s iPad platform.

Here is a screen grab of a Kia Sorrento ad in a Zinio digital magazine for the iPad:

The campaign works on Zinio?s smart phone applications, as well.

?I consider this campaign a little more experiment,? Mr. Schoonover said. ?The magazine properties associated with Zinio were still relevant to the Sorrento target ? young, married families with one or two young kids.

?The objective, number one, was to align with appropriate content,? he said. ?This younger family is technologically knowledgeable, and they use the Internet as part of the car shopping process, so it was the right target.?

Kia believes that platforms like the iPad present the opportunity for more effective advertising, based on the success of its Sorrento campaign.

?In this case, based on our media buy, the Zinio buy outperformed the guarantee by an index of 126 percent,? Mr. Schoonover said.?Consumers are willing to engage with magazines through environments like the iPad, and there are tons of opportunities to enhance the consumer experience.

?We?re working with publishers to build advertising properties that maximize the use of those environments,? he said. ?Every time we execute an advertisement through mobile, the performance always seems to outperform the standards and norms for desktops.?

Kia and competitors making big mobile push
The automotive sector has been quick to adopt leading-edge marketing strategies in the mobile space.

Volkswagen launched a rich media mobile ad campaign last month to raise awareness for its CC model sedan (see story), while Mazda has been promoting its MX-5 roadster with a branded mobile game (see story).

Kia has been busy advertising in the mobile space in the past year, including a campaign for its line of vehicles in the CW television network?s audience retention application (see story).

The company has been refining its mobile advertising strategy as it has learned more about the space.

?In our early stages of mobile initiatives we figured, ?you have to take baby steps,? so we started by using ad banner networks,? Mr. Schoonover said. ?Then you evolve from there.

?It?s sort of a crawl-walk-run approach, versus all-guns-blazing, if you will,? he said. ?We started with banners, and were two to three times more successful than with traditional Web site display pages.

The company says that it has enjoyed success using mobile advertising. It claims a 1-2 percent click through rates using mobile ad banners, as compared to .08-.3 percent click through rates with traditional display banners.

Beyond the above-average metrics, a big motivation for Kia to increase its mobile presence has been to reach demographics that otherwise might not engage with its brand.

?The great thing for us is that the product we have coming out is reaching a whole new audience that is really engaging with Kia Motors for the first time,? Mr. Schoonover said. ?We have a really heavy reliance on digital, social and mobile media to reach that audience.

?In our budgets, we are rushing towards increasing mobile spend by a substantial amount year-over-year,? he said. ?The 2010 the social, digital and mobile budget was increased by 39 percent.?

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York.