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October 24, 2014

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NFL finds Kia’s Super Bowl ad featuring Las Vegas anything but cute

Kia Super Bowl ad

Sun Coverage

Never has a Kia Sorento gotten such great mileage — and never has Las Vegas enjoyed such a free ride.

South Korea’s second-largest car manufacturer made its Super Bowl advertising debut in the third quarter of Sunday’s game with a collection of life-size toys joy riding through the National Football League’s ban against showing casinos, much to the delight of Las Vegans who have long ridiculed the ad policy — and much to the NFL’s chagrin.

Most of the key players are in no-comment mode, but here’s what happened: Kia contracted with El Segundo, Calif.-based ad agency David&Goliath for a 60-second TV spot showcasing the 2011 crossover SUV. The ad, titled “Joyride,” featured a sock monkey; Muno, from the children’s cable television show “Yo Gabba Gabba!”; Mr. X from the blabla dolls collection; and a robot and a teddy bear invented for the ad.

The road trip included bowling on an alley with exploding pins, Jet Skiing, riding a mechanical bull, a trip to a tattoo parlor, a dip in a hot tub — and a visit to the Strip.

The Las Vegas portion featured about 10 seconds of Strip images, including the characters posing in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, motoring past Paris Las Vegas, Bally’s and New York-New York and pulling up to Monte Carlo's porte-cochere.

The bits with the resorts are what bug the NFL because they violate its policy on showing gambling-industry imagery in ads during its games. For years, the NFL banned Las Vegas ads outright, but relaxed the policy for this year’s postseason, allowing ads as long as they didn’t show hotels, casinos, slot machines or any gaming.

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher said his company had no product-placement agreement with Kia. Although Kia had to get permission to tape at the Monte Carlo’s entrance, Absher said there was no backdoor plan to get a resort in a Super Bowl ad.

Kia reportedly negotiated with CBS, the network that aired the Super Bowl, to run the ad for an estimated $5 million.

But that’s where the story gets a little fuzzy. Although David&Goliath delivered the spot well in advance of the game, NFL officials said they didn’t see it.

“CBS sells the ads that appear in the game. We did not see this ad before it aired,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in response to the Sun’s e-mail. “The shots of the casinos did violate our policy, and we have since addressed the matter with CBS.” Asked in a follow-up e-mail how the matter was resolved, McCarthy replied, “We already addressed it privately with CBS. End of story.”

A CBS spokeswoman said the network wouldn’t comment on the matter. David&Goliath referred calls to Kia, whose marketing department didn’t return phone calls.

But Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, chairman of the convention authority’s board, had plenty to say.

“I’m watching the ballgame and I said, ‘My goodness, I thought that the convention authority wasn’t going to place an ad this year,’ ” Goodman said Tuesday. “I see ‘Welcome to Las Vegas,’ I see all the hotels, I see the glitz and glamour of the Strip and I see it’s not a (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) ad. It’s Kia. So I was happier than a pig in mud.

“I personally thought the ad was better than some of the ads we put out. I think it was a great statement about Las Vegas with the cool little monsters running around on the Strip. And all that makes us great was there for the world to see.”

He said legal wagering on games has helped make the NFL what it is today and that other leagues have determined that partnering with Las Vegas — the National Basketball Association with its All-Star Game and postseason events for the National Hockey League and NASCAR — have made them more successful.

The ad was ranked the fourth most popular of the Super Bowl broadcast in a national survey conducted by SpotBowl.com, trailing two produced by Anheuser-Busch and one for Snickers.

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