Acura Ads Attempt to Make Piston Blocks, Lug Nuts Sexy


The scene opens with a stark white room, reminiscent of an art gallery, arranged with engine components perched atop tall spindles: crank shafts, piston blocks, belt assemblies.
With all the motors running, the room is a deafening caterwaul. “Most automobiles use only insulation to reduce noise,” announces the narrator, “but we take a different approach. We use microphones to detect unwanted engine sounds, then transmit opposition frequencies to eliminate them.” Like magic, the room falls silent—enough for the viewer to hear a warbling canary inside a bamboo cage. “Active sound control,” the narrator intones, “available only on the Acura.”

The :30 (called “Engine Parts”) is one of nine new TV spots that broke earlier this year by the Honda-owned nameplate. Bearing the tagline, “The most innovative thinking you’ll find, you’ll find in an Acura,” the campaign is an ambitious grab for sales at a time when luxury brands are wheezing under a lingering recession and competitors like BMW and Mercedes keep a firm lock on the performance car segment.

“What we’re trying to do with this campaign, and in this economy, is to show consumers that they can still have a luxury vehicle, but when you make this choice, you can make a smart decision,” said Susie Rossick, Acura’s manager of national advertising. “With this theme, you can see we do things differently.”

Acura’s chosen point of differentiation is engineering. While other top nameplates stick with messages of performance, fuel economy and posh interiors, a strict focus on literal nuts-and-bolts components such as Acura’s side-to-side rear-wheel energy transfer and an Active Damper System for its motor oil represents a new tack. “Without going out and screaming ‘value,’ we’re trying to show consumers that this is a smarter choice—an innovative approach to luxury,” Rossick added.

Christopher Cedergren, senior partner with Los Angeles-based automotive consultancy Iceology, said Acura’s approach is well advised. “Acura is too closely associated with Honda; they don’t have an identity in the marketplace. So the technology [theme in the commercials] makes a lot of sense,” he said. “They need to hang their hat on something they have—and engineering is all they have.”

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