Honda Drives ‘Beyond the Road’

LOS ANGELES American Honda Motors this week launches a major push for Accord via independent RPA with ads that target Gen X and introduce “Beyond the road” as a tagline.

The first of three 30-second spots broke during Monday Night Football on ESPN.

“It is Honda’s largest launch ever,” said Tom Peyton, senior manager, national advertising at Honda, Torrance, Calif., declining to enumerate further. “There’s a sense that as Accord goes, so goes Honda. We have given up the midsize car lead to Camry, and this is a chance to reassume the leadership in the category.”

Peyton said the campaign targets a younger generation that hasn’t always considered the Accord for themselves. “We’ve been fortunate that the baby boomers have always fully embraced Accord,” Peyton said. “The marketing challenge, where we have more work to do, is with Gen X as they start having families and moving to a larger car. They don’t see Accord as their parents did.”

Peyton said the campaign talks to that generation with “heavy use of music” (Electric Light Orchestra’s “Hold On Tight”) and “relevant green messaging,” as well as “putting them in the right media environments.” He said, for instance, that fast-forwarding through the spots with TiVo would trigger a picture of an Accord and an invitation to view Accord material on a pre-loaded site. “It’s making TiVo fun, and gives viewers a chance to go back and get more information on the Accord,” Peyton explained.

In one spot, “Moments,” as an Accord sedan moves through a city, the reflections on the glass buildings beyond it show intimate life scenarios, presumably from the mind of the driver. The voiceover, by actor Kevin Spacey, begins, “Maybe making the perfect car isn’t just about the road, but rather everything beyond it.”

A variation, “Green,” shows plant and animal life in the backdrop of the green-colored Accord. Spacey repeats the tag and says, “From the most fuel-efficient car in America, the all-new, ultra-low emission Accord.”

“Power” shows big-wave surfers, ski jumpers, horse racers, cheetahs and other speedy icons behind the Accord coupe and concludes with the line, “Introducing the most powerful Accord ever, the all-new 268-horsepower Accord.”

Joe Baratelli, svp, creative director at RPA, said in a statement that the campaign “wanted to hit an emotional chord with these spots.” Baratelli and svp, cd David Smith worked on the campaign with Chuck Blackwell (art) and Camille Sze (copy). Malcolm Venville of Anonymous Content, as well as RPA, co-directed the spots.

One print spread shows a row of people in various seating configurations at home and office. Copy reads, “You are more than a driver. So we went beyond the road. People, rather than drivers, were studied.” Text goes on to explain the development of more comfortable ergonomic seats for the Accord.

Another spread shows a remote control, a BlackBerry and a cell phone. Copy reads, “Soon, everything will start to click.” Text describes how the steering wheel has been engineered to run everything from the navigation system to the stereo and 700 voice-activated commands.

RPA claims the interactive component includes seven “firsts,” ranging from site takeovers to co-branded microsites. Interactive ads on sites such as AOL and MSN, for example, show a montage of life images flying across the browser toward the ad space, finally ending in the image of the car and the headline, “Inspired by life beyond the road.” In another variation, the car in the ad space seems to reach up to the browser tabs on sites such as Yahoo and pull down words, e.g., “Power,” “Fun,” and “Influence,” and incorporate them into the Accord photo.

Events include on-site promotions with Macy’s in San Francisco and Chicago as well as a college-marketing contest.

Honda spent $190 million in domestic measured media for the Accord last year and $75 million through June 2007, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Accord sales are up 2 percent on the year to more than 219,000 units through July, per Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif. Peyton said the sales goal for the 2008 Accord is to exceed 400,000 units.