The Power to Patronise

Kia certainly lives up to its tagline, The Power to Surprise.

Or perhaps that should be, The Power to Patronise.

The carmaker launched its new advertising campaign on Channel 7 during the Australian Open.

Frankly, it’s a double fault.

The first ad, Woman of Now, features a woman striding confidently down the street, rapping about her life.

“I’m a woman of my time; on time; behind time. I climb the corporate ladder. I’ve got a ladder in my stockings. I can’t wait. Don’t have time to wait. I put on weight. I lose weight. I wear a skirt. I wear the pants. I wear heels, and I wear them out. I’m texting, typing, LOLing, OMGing. I’m digitally in touch, but not retouched. I’m a story-telling, canteen-helping, fund-raising, muffin-making, party-going yoga-lover. I’m in all compartments, head of all departments. I’m into womanhood; I watch the neighbourhood; it’s all good. I’m putting fires out; putting my feelers out; letting my feelings out. I don’t internalise: I vocalise.

Wow. Is this the woman of now? Are we really that vacuous?

After watching the ad, I aced my husband with a feminist rant.

Then it was his turn to serve, with the male version of the ad – surprise, surprise – entitled Man of Now.

I’m a new age man. I’m ageless but not ageist. I’m free-range, free-spirited and free-willed. Not on a leash. I push the envelope; push the button; push a pram. I push it real good. I wear the pants, I wear after-shave, I wear the blame, and I wear it well. I’m going strong in one direction. (They’re not on my iPod.) I’m tweeting, posting, sharing, linking, liking: my wall is never dry. I’m a social networking butterfly. I’m house-proud; a house husband; a house hunter. I like a house party. Now I’m in the doghouse! I’m a barbecueing, meat eating, sausage sizzling, prawn peeling, salad lover. I’m international, interconnected, intercontinental. I’m into everything.

“What a dickhead,” hubby exclaimed.

Interesting that the man of now uses a cultural reference from a Salt-N-Pepa song from 1986. How hip.

The concept is the result of an unhappy marriage between the Oak Milk ad

and the Modern Man rap, performed by American comedian George Carlin in his CD, Life is Worth Losing.

These are both funny, edge and ironic.

But the creative team at the agency, Innocean Australia (“an ocean of innovation”), and production company, Robber’s Dog, couldn’t even get the ball over the net.

In the words of Offended on the Mumbrella website, “If someone talked down to me in the street like this ad does, I would be pretty offended”.

Another wrote, “I’m not sure that being a ‘man or woman of now’ is at all a desirable attribute. They’re shallow, stupid, pampered, pretentious and with the attention span of a… oh, that looks interesting”.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

Car commercials have a long history of insulting our intelligence.

Take the Kia ad from last year’s Super Bowl in the United States.

In a dream sequence, the woman is whisked away by a handsome man on a horse while her car racing husband is cheered on by a stadium full of bikini babes.

Critics say this latest ad is the result of men trying to get into women’s heads.

But I think it uses stereotypes for both sexes.

(The creatives were men; the strategist was a woman.)

You can imagine the conversation around the boardroom table.

“So, our target female demo is in her 30s on the corporate ladder. She hits a few snags. Oh, I know, like a ladder, in her stockings. That always used to happen to my mum. Let’s put in something mumsy, about making muffins or canteen duty. Muffins. Yeah, my girlfriend’s always worried about her weight. Can’t say the “f” word but can definitely talk about weight going up and down. Oh, and don’t forget LOL and OMG. They love that crap.”

Of course, the modern male must be metrosexual.

“But not too gay. So, he’s a new age guy, a house husband, yeah, like that show on Channel 9. He knows how to push a pram, but still likes a steak on the barbie. Oh, and he always cops the blame, gets pushed around by his missus. That’s what happens in my house, anyway! Hang on, we don’t want him to look like a doormat. Put in something about him being ‘not on a leash’. Perfect.”

I think the next Kia ad should target a very specific demographic: advertising executives.

I am a wanker. A dreamer. A futurist. A schemer. A write, I drink, I snort, I think. There’s a big bubble where my brain used to be. Pop! There’s an idea. A light bulb appears. My bonus is near. I’m walking, talking, breathing, stalking. I see someone. A cliché, a stereotype. The rest is all hype. I have the power. The power to surprise. See the world through my eyes.