Cool Hamster

For this week’s assignment, I chose to look at the Kia Soul Hamster commercial.

(A natural pick. I love this commercial!)

This commercial plays off of the Kia Soul’s first marketing campaign which featured ‘super cool’ hamsters driving around being cool in their ‘super cool’ Kia Soul.  Well, the Kia Soul underwent a redesign and so did the ad campaign, and the hamsters.  In this commercial, we start with the hamsters who’ve always been on the chubby side but are now clearly overweight.  The first shot is of them running on the beach in sweats, clearly ready to get back in shape.  Lady Gaga’s “Applause” plays in the background.  Below is a breakdown of the full commercial, in five second increments.

1 0:00 – 0:05 We see three overweight hamsters running along the beach in sweats.  We first see them from a long shot and then we see them closer up, running towards the camera.  Lady Gaga’s “Applause” starts to play from the beginning in the background.  We can also hear the hamsters breathing heavy as they run.
2 0:06 – 0:10 The slightly smaller but still overweight hamsters are now in the gym, hitting the elliptical machine and lifting weights.  This is where the mystery sets in.  Why are they working out so hard?  What is their goal?
3 0:11 – 0:15 Our view is flipped to that of an automotive designer, in a studio, working on a new car design on a touch screen computer.  He bobs his head to the song – which has switched from non-diegetic to diegetic sound.
4 0:16 – 0:20 We’re back to the hamsters and the audio is back to background sound, looking a little thinner and getting a little more active.  They are back in the gym taking classes and jumping rope.  Mystery builds – what are they up to?
5 0:21 – 0:25 One of the hamsters is in his coolest gym outfit on the treadmill and gets checked out by two cute girls – only to fall flat on his face from the distraction and excitement.  This provides a little comic relief.
6 0:26 – 0:30 We see a close up of one of the girls who makes a face about the hamster’s fall in a direct address to the camera.  There’s more gym action from the other hamsters but then we are taken back to the designer who is now working on a clay model.  He bobs his head to the music again.
7 0:31 – 0:35 Cut to one of the hamsters on the starting block in a pool.  He bobs his head to the music just like the designer did and gets ready to jump into the pool while the music comes close to its crescendo.
8 0:36 – 0:40 Just as the music reaches its fever pitch, the hamster dives into the water and the audio tone changes to sound like it’s being heard underwater.  The hamster swims directly towards us.
9 0:41 – 0:45 The hamster swims underwater for a moment and then we’re back to the designer, back to regular sounding audio.  The designer is sitting in a car playing with an iPad and tuning the car stereo to Lady Gaga’s “Applause.”
10 0:46 – 0:50 Back the hamsters, looking svelte and working out harder and faster in the gym.
11 0:51 – 0:55 More of the hamsters and the gym, they are getting slimmer, faster, and stronger.
12 0:56 – 1:00 Cut to the three hamsters sitting in a row of hair dryers.  Everyone around them in the hair salon is bopping along to the song.  We zoom in on the hamsters in the hair dryer chairs and they are all bopping their heads to “Applause”.
13 1:01 – 1:05 Cut to the car – neon green, newly designed Kia Soul.  It drives down the highway. Music continues as we get a good look at the front, top, side, and back of the car.
14 1:06 – 1:10 The car stops in front of a theater with a red carpet and fans waiting outside. Fans scream as the hamsters get out of the car looking super sharp in sleek tuxedos.
15 1:11 – 1:15 The three hamsters do a quick synchronized foot shuffle to the beat as they begin their trek up the red carpet. They are super svelte, wearing cool shades, running their hamster paws through their hair in slow motion – they’re way cool.
16 1:16 – 1:20 Hamsters are hamming it up with fans on their way into the theater; signing autographs, taking selfies.
17 1:21 – 1:25 “Totally Transformed” flashes on the screen with an image of the neon green Soul.
18 1:26 – 1:30 “All new Soul” displays on screen along with the Kia logo.

To take a closer look at the design of this commercial’s story, I mapped it to the Story Spine

Once upon a time: Three overweight hamsters wanted to transform their lives.

And every day: They hit the gym.

Until one day: Their bodies started to transform. They gained confidence and speed.

And because of this: They needed a make-over, so they hit the salon.

Until finally: They were ready to showcase their new look on the red carpet – which they did, with great success.

And ever since that day:  They were the coolest, most sought after hamsters on the block.

So not only is the Kia Soul transformed, but so are the hamsters.  This ad campaign literally grew up with its product and I think was a really interesting way to approach this transformation/redesign. The most interesting thing I discovered while watching and listening to this commercial several times, in increments, was the way that it plays with sound.  I was a film minor in college and in some of my film classes we studied diegetic and non-diegetic sound.  Diegetic sound is any sound that is part of what’s happening in the film – the character’s voices, what they hear, etc. Non diegetic sound is anything the viewer hears, and is outside the realm of the film.  This commercial plays a lot with the “Applause” as it flips back and forth between diegetic and non-diegetic sound.  Sometimes it’s just background music that the viewer hears while watching the hamsters working out.  But then, we see the graphic designer bobbing his head along to the song, so clearly, he hears it too.  The best part is at the end when the hamsters get out of the car and at the same time, in perfect sync with the music (as if they are hearing it) make the same little half step and start walking up the red carpet.  The perfect timing of little moments like this and the play with the song make this commercial so fun to watch.



3 thoughts on “Cool Hamster

  1. Totally fantastic analysis! Thanks for the explanation and identification of the diagetic/non diagetic sound which happens smoothly here, almost as a unifying theme. What do we want? Applause. What we will do to get it.

    I too caught thatr subtle change in the audio when the hamster dove in the water– without that, there would have been a discontinuity.

    The merging of the car designer and the hamsters self improvement do not even converge until the end, and even then, I found myself having to step back and make the connection. This shows how far commercials have come since I watched TV as a kid, where the message seemed to be so much more directive.

    The ultimate question (if you are the car company), does this story do sufficient work to build interest, attachment to the brand? I’d say so, in fact, when I hear this song I will think of hamsters turning their head in the salon.

    Excellent work on all fronts, from the analysis to the embedding of the video, to bringing in related content.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! I totally agree that an ad like this helps to build interest in the brand. I think a lot of people have respect for companies that can really build a brand and be committed to entertaining and identifying with the consumer. At no point in that commercial do I have to hear “0% down, 0% financing” and that in and of its self makes me want to give Kia a second look.

  2. “And ever since that day: They were the coolest, most sought after hamsters on the block.”

    “And ever since Bcdelson did DS106 he became the most sought after consultant on the block”

    I had not seen the commercial and do not like Lady Gaga, and I was still taken by the story. And your analysis has taught me much – diegetic and non diegetic sound…oh! get you 🙂 A useful distinction I did not know and I could see how this is played with in the commercial. A fun and insightful post to read. Thank you.

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