Honda Preps $50 Mil. Push for Fit

LOS ANGELES RPA is preparing to launch a spring campaign tagged “The Fit is go!” to back the U.S. introduction of American Honda Motors’ Fit subcompact.

A Honda representative said a series of five-second TV spots would initially trumpet the car’s arrival. The spots, all different in character, “will be quick and fun,” said Honda svp of automotive operations John Mendel. The media buy could include two or three spots in a commercial pod. “Viewers will ask, ‘What did I just see here?’ In a series, they will reinforce each other,” he said.

Radio, print and outdoor are also in the mix.

Mendel said Honda’s “non-traditional approach” in the look and feel of the advertising would appeal to both first-time car buyers and empty-nesters looking for something more youthful and practical.

“It’s a fully integrated campaign that is youthful, fun, hip and designed to celebrate Honda’s commitment to young drivers,” said David Smith, senior vice president, creative director at independent RPA in Santa Monica, Calif. “It has a mix of cultural references [intended to appeal] to a young mind-set. A lot of buyers that aren’t necessarily the creative target will be drawn to it. Honda has a great history of that with the Civic as an entry-level brand. There are elements of art, music, voice, fashion, pop culture.”

Some Fit print ads will be surrounded by Day-Glo yellow and green concentric circles, making the work appear to radiate.

Ad spending for the Fit introduction was not disclosed, but sources said a $50 million-plus push is planned. (When Honda refreshed the Civic last year, the Torrance, Calif.-based automaker spent $140 million in measured media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.) Honda spent $735 million advertising in 2005, according to Nielsen.

Already familiar in Asia, Latin America and Europe, the Fit will compete in the U.S. against the recently redesigned Chevrolet Aveo, the sales volume leader and least expensive entry in the subcompact category.

Honda has begun previewing some elements of Fit creative for dealers nationwide via shops such as Campos Creative Works in Santa Monica, which orchestrates dealer-training seminars. As part of these road shows, 7,500 sales associates in 21 cities get to test drive the Fit, compare it to rival cars, learn about the likely target buyer in interactive workshops, and memorize the positive sales points.

“The younger buyer is all about being real and honest,” said Greg Williams, creative director at Campos Creative. “It was important to our group as we were developing this show that everything feels real, unique and really represents this buyer.”

The Fit will make its debut as the subcompact market heats up with Toyota’s Yaris and Nissan’s Versa entries. (Chevrolet had cut support for the Aveo, spending less than $7 million in 2005 measured media, only a quarter of its 2004 outlay, per Nielsen-Monitor Plus.)