Kia Offers Up Hamsters In Facebook App

Kia Offers Up Hamsters In Facebook App
Tanya Irwin, Aug 04, 2009 05:27 PM
Go Hamster Go/KIA Soul game Kia Motors wants to connect with customers and potential customers via a new Facebook application, but if you don’t have a webcam, you’re out of luck.

The paw-tapping, music-loving hamsters seen in the automaker’s current ad campaign are featured in the “Go Hamster Go!” app, which is Kia’s first-ever augmented reality game and first Facebook application.

“Strategically, this effort is about quality of interaction, not broad reach — that’s what TV and portal ads are for,” says Dave Schoonover, Kia Motors America national manager, CRM and affiliate marketing. “Facebook is recognized as a quality service where many of our target audience congregate. We felt it would be a natural fit.”

Other elements of the Soul launch have included a non webcam-required game, “Escape from Hamsterdam. “During the pre-launch phase we had some special mobile applications such as our iMeem sponsorship or our Soul Cards bar code scanning, and we have mobile launch advertising as well which is driving over 100,000 unique visitors per month to Kia’s mobile website,” Schoonover tells Marketing Daily.

The application, created by digital marketing agency Total Immersion in association with marketing agencies Initiative and David & Goliath, is available on the Kia Soul Facebook Page,, through the “Go Hamster Go!” tab. The home page for the app,, offers tabs to “Meet the Soul,” which takes users to Users can also opt to click on a link to watch the TV spot.

The interactive application, which had more than 6,200 players as of 5 p.m. Aug. 4, places users into the game, allowing them to race against the clock in an augmented reality experience with the Soul ad campaign hamsters. Using facial recognition technology, the player controls the competition with his or her face using a virtual magnet that “connects” to his or her forehead. The object of the game is to grab a hamster with the magnet as it comes off of a conveyer belt and place it into a Soul as an onscreen clock ticks down.

The webcam requirement probably isn’t a problem for the Kia Soul’s younger target demographic, which is ages 18-34, educated and a slightly male skew. “This would not be the right thing to do for many of our other older models,” Schoonover says. “But 70% of laptops today are shipped with built-in webcams. So, for the Soul audience, yes all the way.”

Brandon Evans, managing partner, strategy and services at New York-based Mr Youth, says the social media agency advises clients to skip applications that require webcams if their goal is broad reach. “We’ve had a lot of clients asking about augmented reality usage,” Evans says. “It really depends on what their goals are as to whether this makes sense for them or not. If you’re trying to reach a tech blog audience and get them to write about how cool it is, there could be a halo effect.”

Using cutting-edge technology can position a brand as forward-thinking, Evans said. But he believes mass adoption of webcams is still about a year away.

MediaPost’s Social Media Insider columnist Catharine P. Taylor says while using a webcam personalizes games for individuals, it can be a turnoff for someone who wants to connect with the brand but doesn’t have the technology. “They could have had two options for the game, one using a webcam and one not,” she says. “Then you have the potential of reaching more people. With so much media fragmentation, you really need to appeal to the lowest common denominator.”

Since the application is Facebook-based, it might have made sense to also have an option that just ports in one’s Facebook picture, says David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy at New York-based 360i. “Webcams do exclude people, though they are increasingly built into new laptops and are more common for video chat,” Berkowitz says.