La Agencia de Orci Softens Accord Sell

LOS ANGELES American Honda Motor Co.’s Hispanic shop is shifting its focus on the 2005 Accord from harder, feature-oriented commercials to a softer sell, said the agency’s account director.

“In the past, we’ve focused on the rational aspects of Honda, its reliability, safety and comfort,” said Robert Santiago, La Agencia de Orci, Los Angeles. “But the Accord sedan is not your traditional four-door. We wanted to showcase the power, performance and style and demonstrate that it is fun to drive, without compromising those other qualities like dependability.”

Santiago said the driver focus could be seen in a spot that broke Wednesday for the Accord, the best-selling midsize sedan among Hispanics, ahead of Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima, in a tight race for second and third place. In the 30-second ad, a father and son are playing catch when automatic sprinklers rain out their game. They pile into the Accord, head to the open road, then use the sunroof and speed to dry off. “The fun never ends” is the tagline, created in both English and Spanish versions.

“The ad shows performance, style, the special-edition kit, the navigation system, luxury,” said Santiago. “But showing the driver-focus benefits for a family car can be a key differentiator. You can be emotional when communicating the rational benefits.”

Santiago said the bread-and-butter Accord is leading what is clearly a flat, if not shrinking category of interest among Hispanics, but expectations are high for the introduction of Honda’s first pickup truck in the first quarter of 2005, the still-unnamed vehicle classified as an SUT (sport utility truck). “The success of the SUVs and the Element softened the [Hispanic] market for Honda’s first true pickup truck,” said Santiago.

The agency will see incremental increases on spending for the new Accord ad and a Civic spot held over from last year (with the tag, “Things keep getting better and better”). Both are airing in light rotation on ESPN, MTV, Fox Sports and Mun 2 (music television for Hispanic youth) and the Spanish-language networks.

Honda spent $19 million on Spanish-language TV ads in 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.