Kia Decides There’s Just Nothing Funny About Millard Fillmore

Boy, is this a weird story. After two major Kia executives depart comes a possible reason for their departures, from Ad Age:

The 13th U.S. president was central to Kia’s upcoming “Unheard of President’s Day Sale,” honoring, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, the first commander in chief to have running water in the White House. The punchline of new TV ads promoting the sale is a soap-on-a-rope bust of President Fillmore; the automaker handed out the same soaps to reporters at its media dinner last week during the Chicago Auto Show.
But Byung Mo Ahn was not amused. The South Korea-born executive, who returned to Kia’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters nine days ago in the newly created position of chairman and group CEO of Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (the automotive plant currently under construction in West Point, Ga.), doesn’t like the current brand of humor in Kia’s ads, according to executives close to the matter. One of those executives said Mr. Ahn prefers to show the cars and trucks as serious contenders with good quality.

Yeah, he doesn’t look all that funny. Now Grover Cleveland, that would have been a better choice. He was hilarious, you know.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Taft.

  2. “No” to silly commercial?
    Dear Mr. Kia Chairman:
    The silly commercial is used to mask what is arguably the worst new car in America from both a design AND quality standpoint. To attempt a serious commercial regarding the quality of your porduct wouldn’t work because the only cars it is better than aren’t allowed in America for obvious safety concerns.
    Perhaps the proper decision is to send you to pack your office instead.

  3. Called several KIA dealerships and not one of them has heard of the Millard Fillmore soap on a rope! I would have test driven a KIA for a free soap on a rope!..provided that none of my friends saw me, and I was wearing a crash helmut and other safety gear. When will the soap arrive?

  4. The fact is that the Millard Fillmore bathtub story is not true! What is true is documented accounts of presidents back to, at least, Thomas Jefferson having a bathtub in the White House.
    This story goes back to 1917 when, while nursing a hangover, H.L. Mencken had a deadline for a story in the New York Evening Mail. In his haste he thought it amusing to fabricate a story of the history of the American Bathtub. Mencken wrote that during President Fillmore’s time, there was a national sentiment that bathtubs in homes were not safe, or something to that effect. Mencken reported that President Fillmore put the first American bathtub in the White House to help galvanize the American public on the safety and sanitation benefits of their use. The story was meant to be a joke!
    Afterwards, Mencken repeatedly expressed the falsehoods of his article, yet the story still circulated as fact. Even Harry Truman referenced it in one of his speeches! Mencken, on his deathbed, again expressed his horror that this story survived as it did.
    I find it just hilarious, and sad at the same time, that 90 years later such falsehoods still find their way into popular culture.

  5. @The Gulag – Thanks for connecting the dots and making this a richer story. Given the Mencken hijinks and mythic nature of the “bathtub story,” I’d say this soap-on-a-rope promo is pure genius. Whoever thought of it needs a raise and a trophy, or two.

  6. Jack Wybenga says:

    I got my Millard Filmore soap on a rope. I looks and smells good.