Honda Tries Soft Sell for Holidays

NEW YORK Honda is hitting reset on its long-running “Happy Honda Days” initiative. The automaker is bowing a new national campaign that emphasizes good cheer and charity over the hard sell that characterizes many seasonal commercial pitches.

The campaign includes individual 30-second spots for Honda’s Accord, Civic and Pilot marques. The Civic spot focuses on a group of young volunteers who spend the day cleaning up a city park. At the end of the ad, three of the actors come across a new Civic. As they silently express their admiration for the vehicle, holiday lights illuminate the park.

A similar quietude informs the Pilot spot, which centers on a young boy and his father as they distribute turkeys to an urban food bank. Each of the three spots concludes with the tag “Happy Honda Days,” rendered in a seasonal font. A voiceover then prompts viewers to “go to for details.”

“Taking into consideration the troubled economy, this year’s unexpected approach for the ‘Happy Honda Days’ TV communicates a warm, simple seasonal greeting rather than focusing on an overt sales message,” said Dick Colliver, executive vp at American Honda Motor. “The TV messages extend online where our customers are invited to help Honda enrich the well-being of communities and society.”

In addition to underscoring the messaging in the linear TV ads, the online campaign allows consumers to give a little something back during the holiday season. Beginning Nov. 27, Honda will donate $1 for every user who registers at the ShopHonda site.

Charities aligned with Honda include: Little League Baseball/Urban Initiative, Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and Keep America Beautiful.

Ad units will run on top auto shopping Web sites, including AOL Autos, Autotrader, Car and Driver,, Cars Direct, Kelley Blue Book, MotorTrend, MSN Autos and Yahoo!.

Honda first introduced its integrated “Happy Honda Days” pitch in November 2003. The new strategy was cooked up by Honda’s lead agency, RPA, Santa Monica, Calif.

In the second quarter of 2008, Honda spent $165 million in U.S. measured media, of which $54 million was devoted to national broadcast. In the same period, the carmaker allocated $63 million of its ad budget to various national cable networks, per TNS Media Intelligence data.