RPA ‘Advances’ Campaign for Acura MDX

LOS ANGELES Acura has launched a campaign for its MDX sport utility using the single word “Advance” as a theme to position the automaker as “ahead, an alternative and separate us from the competition,” said Susie Rossick, national advertising manager at the Torrance, Calif., company.

“We’ve determined it an alternative to the showy, above-the-consumer attitude when [brands] talk luxury. We position Acuras for more independent thinkers,” Rossick said.

Independent RPA in Santa Monica, Calif., fashioned the campaign.

Using actor James Spader as voiceover and Supertramp’s 1974 hit “Dreamer,” a brand spot’s time-lapse photography follows various “advances” such as a baby’s first steps and an astronaut landing on the moon. Narration: “At Acura, we help people advance from where they are to where they could be . . . Advancing technology, advancing design, advancing life.” A zoom from a satellite to a road and then inside an Acura ends the spot.

The campaign represents “the first brand-elevation spots since we’ve had the business [in 2000],” said Mark Erwin, RPA svp, creative director. “It gives meaning to the thought of ‘Advance.’ We wanted to start the campaign with the brand direction and go into other meanings later.”

A second TV spot, shot in black-and-white, is set in the country. A man driving an MDX comes to a curvy stretch in the road. “There are two options,” the voiceover says. “Change the road or change the SUV.” At that point, the road separates from the curb and rises up on pneumatic shocks into a banked racetrack. The voiceover concludes, “Introducing the all-new Acura MDX with super-handling all-wheel drive.”

“Black and white communicates a luxury story,” said Erwin. “Brands like DeBeers use it. It has a fashion-forward, upscale look.”

Print includes a close-up of the MDX against a blurred terminal backdrop and the headline, “It’s an arrival. It’s a departure.”

Acura, a division of American Honda Motors, spent $80 million advertising the MDX in 2005 and $50 million through August 2006, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Though it typically accounted for almost one-third of Acura unit sales, the MDX has recently slipped, according to Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif., as all but the small SUV segment has suffered due to high gas prices and changing tastes. Through September, unit sales of 37,000 are 16 percent down compared to 2005.

“We hope the MDX continues to break ground in the luxury SUV market,” said Rossick. “It held on for so many years, but it was time for a redesign. We’re hoping for big things. When it hits the market, the features and styling will set the standard.”

The campaign also includes Acura’s NPR podcast sponsorship, upcoming theatrical versions and outdoor breaking in November that includes the Times Square Jumbotron. A half-day home page roadblock on Yahoo is scheduled for Oct. 27.