RPA Stresses Honda Pickup Performance

LOS ANGELES A new spot for Honda’s Ridgeline breaking tonight carves out a new niche for the automaker’s first pickup truck based on driving performance, according to the creative directors at independent RPA.

The 30-second spot shows Honda’s S2000 sports car winding up a curvy mountain road. An overhead shot glides over the S2000 and picks up the Ridgeline at another point in the road, visually making the performance connection. The spot closes with the vehicle poised atop the mountain and the campaign’s tagline: “Above all, it’s a Honda.”

“We knew early on that drivability is a characteristic that sets it apart from the competition,” said David Smith, svp and co-creative director at the Santa Monica, Calif., shop. “Once we felt we had established the truck credentials, we wanted to play up a distinct advantage: That it drives better on-road and off-road than the competition.”

“Time will tell if we see a migration in that area [of truck ride],” said Tom Peyton, senior manager of national advertising at Honda, Torrance, Calif. “I’d like to think we are on the cutting edge. When SUVs first came out, they had great functionality but bad rides. Today’s SUVs ride much better because they’ve been moved to car frames. The Ridgeline isn’t a car frame, but offers a much better ride and handling than body-on-frame designs.”

Joe Baratelli, also an svp and co-cd at RPA, said the spot fits into the general philosophy of “classic Honda communications,” in that it uses television to convey a largely emotional message. “TV cuts the wide swath and print lets the consumer know the car intimately with details,” Baratelli said.

The connection to the sports car was also aimed at appealing to the vast majority of pickup buyers, Baratelli said. “Our discussions since the intro of the CRV and the Pilot, and now Ridgeline have been specific in trying to attract the male buyer,” he said. “Masculinizing the brand was a conscious effort on our part.”

The print campaign stresses information on horsepower, unique box-frame construction, towing capability, in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate.

“The whole campaign is playing off Honda innovation,” Baratelli added. “They know they’re late to the party but, as with the Odyssey, they ramped it up a notch.”

American Honda Motors spent $570 million on ads for its lineup last year, excluding the Acura division, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Figures on advertising for the Ridgeline, which launched during the Super Bowl in February, are not yet available.