Kia find the beauty in loneliness with a CGI firefly | #BehindTheIdea

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Creative comms agency Innocean UK worked with long time client Kia on its most recent ad. The agency showcased the enticing design and class leading features of the Kia Sportage, with the help of a CGI firefly.

In collaboration with director Lee J Ford and Twice Pictures, the film follows the story of a lonely firefly, which observes a murmuration of starlings with envy. Noticing the distinctive lights of the Kia Sportage, the firefly gives chase, joined eventually by a host of friends the firefly didn’t know it had.

With the immergence of hyper-realistic CGI ads on the rise, Innocean and Kia have highlighted how car ads can and should incorporate both the real world and CGI whilst remaining slick, and very much on brand.

To learn more, we spoke to INNOCEAN UK team Dom Sweeney (Head of Creative) Emma Smalley (Head of Broadcast) and John Leisk (Account Director).

What was the brief?

The Sportage is Kia’s most popular and iconic model. The latest one launched in 2022 and quickly earned high praise, including ‘Best Family SUV’ by What Car? due to its practicality, efficiency, dynamic performance and design.

Our brief for the 2023 campaign was to showcase the new design and features of the car, all within the brand strategy of Movement That Inspires. A broad brief, but one that gave us lots to get our teeth into.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

Because the brief was so broad, we had a range of ideas on the table, meaning the ad could have gone in a few directions. The one thing we all agreed on was that the car had to feature prominently throughout.


The concept of attraction resonated with the client the most, so we were able to start building out an idea with this in mind immediately. We began by thinking about the external elements of the car until we arrived at one feature that stood out – the lights on the new model. Deciding that these would be the focal point of the ad, we started piecing themes together and discussing what was attracted to car lights – we realised that moths just wouldn’t quite cut it, so we landed on fireflies.  

What was the process behind ideating the concept?

A sparkle of fireflies chasing after the lights of a car wouldn’t have been particularly novel or interesting, we needed to add substance to the story – a human side to tap into the audience’s emotions.

This is when the idea of a lonely firefly was born. A firefly looking for a friend, being attracted to the lights of a Sportage felt like it could almost be the storyline of a Pixar film – there was something quite magical about it.

The final scenes when all of the other fireflies join the chase gives the viewer a hopeful ending; the car driving off into the sunset, leaving the firefly to join the murmuration of friends.

What was the production process like?

Working with director Lee J Ford and Twice Productions was brilliant, Lee brought so much to the idea and supported us through challenges like budget and ensuring all filming locations were in the UK.

We thoroughly enjoyed the audio production process for this one. Working with SyncSmith and composer Dan Samsa led to a beautiful cinematic score that perfectly complemented the storytelling. Without the screen composition, the story would not have been as compelling – the sound for this one was just as important for us as the visual elements.


Phil Bolland's (SINE) skilful sound design enhanced the enchanting moments of the fireflies, contributing to an overall fantastic audio experience that we were thrilled to also deliver for Dolby Atmos (c/o Guilt Free).

What was the biggest challenge during production? How did you overcome it?

Venturing close to Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands proved to be quite the adventure! Night shoots themselves are obviously always challenging, but night shoots in Scotland, during late spring, battling with storms adds another level of difficulty to deal with. Not to mention that we were doing stills shoots at the same time – it was extremely intense.

Amidst the unpredictable whirlwind of weather, we were lucky enough to capture the most beautiful sunset to use in the campaign. It didn’t disappoint!

What kit/tools/software were used to create the project?

Glassworks VFX Head of Production, Roman Lukyanov shares some insight; “This was a real all-rounder in terms of VFX software used. The master timeline was held in Flame, with a large amount of compositing work completed there too.


This was supported through additional compositing in Nuke. In terms of 3D, it was a mix of singular character animation in Maya, integrated into a Houdini lighting scene, with all group animation completed in Houdini FX. Rendering was done in Redshift. The grade was then completed in Baselight.”

What is one funny or notable thing that happened during production?

Midges… And not a firefly in sight… In hindsight maybe we should have chosen them as our star insect! When we came back to London, the clever folk at Glassworks VFX worked their magic to get rid of the midges and replace them with the lovely CGI fireflies that feature in the final ad.

What’s the main message of this project and why does it matter?

I’d love it if people took out a message of collective strength from this film – the lonely firefly inspired to do amazing things as part of a murmuration of others. That being said, I’d be equally happy if the main take out was that ‘the Sportage is a great looking car.’

How long did it take from inception to delivery?


Four months – almost to the day – from inception to delivery. We were able to produce such a visually rich film with such an abundance of fantastic CGI in so tight a timeframe which really is testament to the whole team – the organisation of Twice Pictures; the hard work of the team at Glassworks VFX, our composer Dan Samsa and SyncSmith, and the sound design team at SINE.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

We want this to really inspire attention, both for the Sportage and for Kia. We want the Sportage to continue to be seen as a desirable, attractive car and hope this will have the same impact on Kia as a brand. The beauty of the film is testament to Kia’s new brand and design philosophy, so we hope this is recognised and elevated as a result.


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