Marshall Pumps Ups High-Performance HKS

LOS ANGELES Marshall Advertising and Design’s first image campaign for HKS auto parts broke in car enthusiast magazines this month and rolls out in its entirety through January, the agency confirmed.

The print ads, appearing in magazines such as Sport Compact Car, Import Tuner, Super Street and Drag Sport, feature road signs along blurred stretches of California highways challenged by copy line sentiments. To a “Watch Downhill Speed” sign, the copy retorts, “Yeah, watch and learn.” To a “Slow” sign, the copy states, “It’s not in our vocabulary either.”

Ads also direct readers to the Web site: “To see our other 2,067 signature parts, go to hksusa.com.” The HKS logo now includes the words “Driving Performance” under the letters.

Costa Mesa, Calif., independent Marshall won the Los Angeles-based account in July.

“One of the challenges with HKS is that it has been around for 30 years, and though it has a reputation for high performance, it is suffering overall low awareness,” said Roger Feldman, associate creative director. “In fact, in the entire category, not much branding goes on but advertising of individual products or a whole group. We feature a few, but generally suggested that individual parts is not the way to go.”

“The category has been basically a product dump,” added Mike Voornas, art director. “We want to depict driving as fun, make an emotional connection, and then the parts will sell themselves.”

Feldman said the road signs theme came from the knowledge that “a lot of enthusiasts have favorite roads and parts of roads. They look at the signs as a setup. We’ve all done it. This is the point to get ready for a little adrenaline.”

Rick Lafferty, executive vice president of HKS, said the product focus of the initial ads gave the company awareness with buyers in particular niche markets, such as exhaust pipes, but the sheer diversity of the product line made advertising difficult from both an ad execution as well as budget perspective.

“We want our advertising to stand for broad range of products, but recognize that we’re in the business of touching emotions,” said Lafferty. “We’re not connecting with the consumer if we’re just putting an exhaust in an ad and talking about its technical aspects. We’d rather feature something instantly recognizable that touches them on all levels.”

Lafferty would not disclose the advertising budget, but said in 2004 HKS plans to spend “substantially more than the company has ever invested in the U.S. market.”