Kia’s new Peter Pan short film proves the value of content marketing

Words by Ben Falk, Yahoo writer and journalist

There’s a cool soundtrack. You see flashes of an attractive man and woman. A helicopter shot follows a sleek car as its speeds along a beautiful mountain path. A pause. Then cue a car slogan.

There’s never really been much invention in automobile advertising. The sole goal was to show the product and make it seem aspirational.

But Kia’s three-minute mini-movie, ‘Peter Returns’, is looking to change that with their innovative storytelling approach.

You can watch the video below:

Based on JM Barrie’s iconic fairy tale Peter Pan, the ad instead casts Peter, Wendy and Tinkerbell as heroes trying to wrestle control of automotive innovations from the clutches of a rich, malevolent tyrant called Hook.

Amidst a gridlocked dystopia, car users are deprived of their right to the newest and best equipment companies like Kia have to offer thanks to Hook’s greed. It’s up to Peter, Wendy and Tink to change that with the help of Kia’s concept car, whether it’s by using their vehicle’s smart windscreen to help strategies or finally toppling their foe with the help of a certain clock sound and a hologramatic crocodile.

The result is a unique and clever spin on a classic tale, which helps illustrate the brand’s future vision motto “Boundless for All”, as well as demonstrate the rapid evolution in vehicle technology.

It’s cinematic to be sure (it’s directed by award-winner Philippe Andre) and plays on the heart like any great movie. It doesn’t sit in an abstract space, but instead uses the technologies it’s developing to tell a story that doesn’t look out of sync with big-budget blockbusters like ‘Ready Player One’, making the tech as alluring as the kind ‘Iron Man’ likes to conjure up in his lab.

“Our goal was to convey difficult future technologies in an easy-to-understand and friendly way through the fairy tale,” says Kia. “And Peter Pan’s story plot was a perfect match for our project.”

What it really does is understand what most other car companies don’t – the importance of storytelling in modern marketing. In a world of ad blocking software and an audience weaned on the golden age of TV and spectacular big-screen entertainment, simply showing the product no longer works.

So rather than just show off in-development wizardry like Smart Pixel Light and Sound Focusing Technology, or smart, in-car health systems and AI voice-activated assistants, these are woven into the fabric of the story, giving the audience someone – and something – to root for, rather than just watch things appear on-screen.

The automotive industry is at a crucial juncture in its history with the rise of autonomous driving, renewable energy and smart tech at the centre of its ongoing transformation.

Meanwhile, the consumer is also facing a bombardment of dramatic advances in future technologies, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 5G.

Companies like Kia are beginning to realise that to keep up with the pace, especially with a cinema brand campaign, they need to provide a similar experience to that in order to cut through the social media noise. Hence why a campaign like Peter Returns is so effective (it’s already garnered hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube) and so timely.

Above all though, the film does what any great commercial needs to do – showcase the brand’s current and future vision, as well as their USP, Kia’s desire to challenge the status quo and passion for innovation.

That they manage to do that while engaging an audience used to binge-watching TV content or being dazzled by state-of-the-art CGI, demonstrates how others might take this approach and adapt it to their own product.

For the full video of ‘Peter Returns’ and videos of the technologies described in the short film, please visit the Kia Motors website.