Behind the Idea: The Times and Kia show the cost of leaving it unsaid


Kia has launched a new campaign called Journeys That Matter in partnership with News UK and Sky Media to raise awareness of its car portfolio, featuring the Kia ProCeed and Kia's new all-electric e-Niro.

News UK’s Bridge Studio developed three fictional short dramas (10-15 minutes each) designed to create an emotional connection between the viewer and the Kia brand.

The first, Unsaid, stars James Hillier and focuses on an architect son taking his estranged mother on a long and difficult journey. Below, Darren Smith, content director at Bridge Studio explains the concept.


What was the brief?

Very much about building brand love. Kia makes great cars – the new Kia e-Niro is What Car?’s Car of the Year – but its reputation is built on practicality, reliability, the seven-year warranty… Research showed that people respected Kia but didn’t love the brand. We had to find a way to get consumers to build an emotional connection with Kia’s brand and models.

How did the initial conversations go?

It was nerve-wracking: this is a unique way of delivering a car campaign, so it was a new experience for Kia. To say it was something out of left field is a massive understatement. But the Kia team are lovely, very passionate about growing the brand… thankfully, they didn’t immediately throw us out of the room.

Tell us about the concept?

We work with Unruly, which measures the emotional engagement of content (using a combination of AI-driven facial mapping technology and robust survey responses), and everything pointed to longer-form emotion-driven stories as the best way to connect. Plus, YouTube results showed longer form (10-15 minute) videos drove the best engagement on the platform. Finally, on Sky we wanted to make something worth seeking out on a big screen, with high production values; our concept of fictional dramas came from joining these dots together.

What was the production process like, including the biggest challenge?

Beyond a scale we’ve done before: with actors, directors, director of photography, scripting, lighting, 30-man crews, drone piloting, precision drivers, the whole shebang. The hardest part was ensuring we got the performances from the actors that meant audiences would identify with them; and that the Kia models featured in a way that enhanced, not interfered with, the storytelling. It was a tricky balance to get right and in relatively short turnaround times too. The only way we could get it right was to work hand-in-glove with the Kia client, Havas (media agency), and Innocean (creative agency) throughout the shoot. We all put a lot of trust in each other.

What’s the main message of the campaign and why is it important?

It’s a reminder that a car isn’t just a tool; it becomes an integral part of our lives. It gives us freedom; it connects and protects our loved ones; it opens the world up for us to explore. There’s a reason why we form strong attachments to our car – for many it becomes a part of the family.

For Kia, the campaign reminds audiences that it’s a worthwhile partner on some of the most important journeys we take through our lives.

Why do the final assets resonate with consumers?

The stories and characters are so relatable. In UNSAID (the first film, below) with Kia ProCeed, we follow a man who has broken away from a tough upbringing to succeed in his profession (in his case, architecture) but at a cost of building stronger personal relationships in his life – not least with his mother. The journey they take is a chance for him to reconnect. There’s a guilt, I think, in pursuing success but neglecting those things that nourish your soul instead of your bank account, and this film is part of that wish-fulfilment I think many 30-somethings feel when it comes to our parents, especially as they reach an age when they need us more and more. For me it’s a universal theme for the ‘sandwich generation’ – wishing we could be better at taking care of the people that raised us.

What’s the most interesting thing about the campaign?

There’s nothing else quite like it in the market. It’s fictional, a drama that stands in its own right as a story – as content that can be enjoyed on its own merits, rather than a disruptive ad. Lexus and Jaguar have both produced documentaries, but neither have tackled fleshed out, meaningful, drama-driven storytelling, which I think our first film does so well.

How long did it take to make from inception to delivery?

There was a lot of shaping of the supporting campaign (including ‘emotional drive’ stories in The Sunday Times Magazine, The Times and online) and making sure the plan worked with our partners, YouTube and Sky – but the film concept and script came together quite quickly. Perhaps five or so months from initial pitch to the first film appearing on TV and online.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

Focus groups suggested that the first film can really shift the dial on brand perception for the Kia ProCeed, and I hope we see that play out in the real world. And once we launch the second film in August/September (with a third to come before the end of the year) the collection of films will make people reappraise what Kia stands for.

How satisfying is it to have released the first film?

I’m absolutely delighted – but my job was the easy bit. As the scriptwriter, I got to indulge myself in the story without worrying too much about making it a reality, and Kia, Innocean and all the teams at News UK – the video team, and Bridge Studio, our producers and project managers – have performed miracles turning the idea into a smart, beautiful campaign.

But we’re not resting yet – we are in post production for the second film and we’re combining live action and animation; a bigger cast and crew, we’re even breaking the old rule about not working with children or animals – by having both. It’s a testament to Kia’s confidence and bravery that with each film we’re going that bit further. We’re really pulling out all the stops to create films that connect with people.

Watch Unsaid below. The second film in the campaign, MUDLUMPS, about a father trying to entertain his children on a long journey, will debut in September and a third film is in production and will launch later in the year. 




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