Super Bowl Advertising with Socks Appeal

First, a cork-popping congratulations to the Broncos, and condolences to all the Panthers fans. Now comes the Monday-morning quarterbacking and all the after-game analyses, almost as much fun as following this year’s election season!

But personally, I think the big winner in the game was Kia Motors, whose “Walken Closet” commercial was one of the truly great moments in Super Bowl advertising.  Feel free to click here to watch the spot and then come right back for the play-by-play.


Welcome back!

For a commercial – or any advertising, for that matter – to be effective, it has to accomplish several critical feats:  It has to break through and attract attention, it has to be clear in its fundamental selling message, the message has to be compelling, and it has to be memorable when you walk away from it.

I’ve argued for years that most Super Bowl commercials only accomplish the first and last requirements. You watch and enjoy them, you may laugh at their gags and you talk about them after the game.  But on the selling-side, most hardly make it past the scrimmage line.  They don’t leave you wanting to know more about the product or even “get” the product’s unique selling proposition (USP), the thing that makes the product unique among its competitors.  That surely can’t be said of the Kia spot.

First off, who can’t be drawn into Christopher Walken’s creepily intense performance no matter what he does? And the gag about the “Walken closet” is hilarious. But when Walken metaphorically compares most mid-sized sedans to uninspired beige socks and the Optima to the “world’s most exciting pair of socks,” in a way only he can deliver, he absolutely nails the Optima’s unique selling proposition: a car with “pizzazzzzz” in a world of otherwise boring mid-sized competitors.  If you’re thinking about buying a mid-size after watching this commercial, you’re compelled to at least check out the Optima. (After all, who wants to be boring and beige?)

Our lives are way too busy for us to be attracted to “beige” things.  Yet, too many marketers don’t project that same line of thinking toward attracting customers. Decisions are made daily to keep producing and running the same run-of-the-mill, uninspiring stuff…week after week, year after year.

Keep in mind that when you as a consumer see anything from a company, either your opinion of that company is enhanced or it’s not. There’s no middle ground. You either like them a bit more or you go in the other direction.  So why do so many marketers turn that compelling, money-making value proposition into a beige and uninteresting “me-too” message that each and every one of their competitors could say.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been bored into buying anything. And I’m even going to say that 99% of your customers are with me on this. The marketing you do for your company should be an extension of you. You’re the person who’s responsible for communicating the passion of your company. When you talk about your business with others, hopefully your eyes twinkle, your heart begins to race, your voice becomes more dynamic and people are instantly attracted to you. When that show of enthusiasm and excitement happens, no one would confuse you with being boring, right? Of course not. So look at your marketing and see if it reflects that same level of specialness.  (Or you could always ask friends, colleagues or suppliers who will be candid with you, “Does this marketing make you want to pick up the phone or know more about us?”  If the answer is not an enthusiastic “yes,” then it’s time to start over.)

In a world of “beige” mid-size sedans, there’s the Kia Optima. In your competitive world where there’s so much beigeness, where do you stand?  C’mon, punch it!


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

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