Dean Norbiato, KIA Australia’s general manager, marketing, has hailed the automaker’s entry into the ute market as an “audacious play.”

Over the weekend, the Korean marque debuted a star-laden advert for the as-yet-unnamed ute during the NRL’s double-header in Las Vegas. This entry into the most competitive segment of the market is unprecedented for KIA and its parent company Hyundai, with the new ute based on an entirely unique chassis. While the 30-second spot debuted during the NRL matches, there are really quite funny 60- and 96-second versions, too.

“The top three selling cars last year in this market were all light commercial vehicles, which is a category that we don’t play in,” Norbiato told B&T.

“As a brand, we want to have a product that fits into every buyer segment. We’ve been on this journey not for a short period of time working with the global team on a light commercial ute and transitioning the quality that we have as a brand into a light commercial ute that is befitting of an Australian audience.”

The ute, of course, is a peculiarly Australian market segment. While pickup trucks dominate the commercial vehicles market in the US and Canada, the utes that dominate roads from Bondi to Brisbane and beyond with their interchangeable bodies are quite different. Norbiato said that while the firm was entering into an entirely new segment, its engineers were “extremely happy” with the vehicle’s overall quality, rigidity and components despite the ute being more than a year from hitting the road. In fact, it is set to be hewn from Australian steel.

“The car is still over 12 months away. This is a journey from an initial awareness piece to finding the clear space in what is a very mature category dominated by a number of key players. Following this campaign, we’ll be asking whether it resonates, cuts through and the key question of whether it allows the product to stand for what it needs to stand for?” said CMO Power List inductee Norbiato.

You can expect this initial spot and campaign to evolve as KIA reveals more details about the ute.

“There will be a reveal within the existing environment of the [ute’s] eventual name. There needs to be some level of surprise. If we call this a ‘platform’ and it does resonate with the Australian public, it is something that we could look at for launch down the track as well because we found it a really enjoyable and malleable platform from a creative standpoint,” said Norbiato.

“It is the most Australian product that we’ve ever had the opportunity to work with the global team on.”

That ‘Australian-ness’ features throughout the ad. From the list of sporting greats to the waiter carrying two chicken schnitties through the crowded pub. Even the dialogue reflects the finer details of Australian culture, according to Norbiato, and the stars didn’t take too much convincing to join in the fun. In case you missed any in the ad above, the full cast includes:

  • Adam Reynolds – Brisbane Broncos Club Captain and premiership winner
  • Alexander Volkanovski – UFC legend and former featherweight champion
  • Alfie Langer – Rugby league legend and four-time premiership winner
  • Ashleigh Barty – Former world number one and Grand Slam-winning tennis champion
  • Brianna Clark- Brisbane Broncos NRLW star
  • Buddy Franklin – Australian rules legend who kicked more than 1,000 goals during his career
  • Damien Oliver – Three-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey
  • Darren Lockyer – Former rugby league player and Australian captain
  • David Boon – Former Australian cricket legend
  • Dermott Brereton – Five-time premiership winner and former Australian rules footballer
  • Dylan Alcott – 2022 Australian of the Year and Paralympic sporting legend
  • Jessica Watson – Sailor and OAM recipient

“What we paid was very much worth it [for the stars],” said Norbiato.

“And it had a real domino effect when a lot of the stars found out who else was in it and that had a bit of a mitigating factor from us making it work from a price standpoint. If they were all isolated deals done in siloes, then we wouldn’t have been able to do it. But they started feeding into the narrative and took a bit of creative licence with it. Ash Barty’s line was delivered beautifully on the day in her words. They’re asking her what she won her medals for and she says ‘a couple of weeks’ work.’ It’s the most Australian thing I’ve ever heard.”

KIA has a longstanding association with sports and tennis in particular. In January, Norbiato told B&T that there was no better sports sponsorship in the country than the Australian Open and that the firm was using it to tout its electric vehicles. ”

“We received resounding positive feedback and a lot of it from consumers unaware that KIA had electric vehicles. For us, that was a really important point — you can get too close to your brand and think that everyone knows everything about the product lineup when, in fact, people consume advertising quite lightly,” he said at the time.

However, this change of market requires a change of channel tack.

“For this phase, we’re going exceptionally broad but we understand that the tradie market obviously over-indexes in ute purchases. We’re going to be across all major channels including TV, outdoor, digital and radio and we’re going to be very heavy on social. We’ve got quite aggressive targets for the first phase of the campaign,” said Norbiato.

But they would also be changing the target. While KIA traditionally had an 85/15 per cent metro/regional split, it would be adjusting that to around 65/35 per cent for this new ute. All of this will make the job of KIA’s media agency, Advertising Associates, even harder. Still, Norbiato is confident that with the right creative placed correctly, it will make a success of the ute — despite it being an “audacious play” in the market.


  • Production Company: Scoundrel
  • Creative Director: Ariel Martin
  • Creative Agency: Innocean Australia
  • Media Agency: Advertising Associates
  • PR Agency: Enthral

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