RPA Launches Honda Element

With two new TV spots that playfully mock the target audience as having a selective memory, American Honda Motor Co. this week launches its new youth-oriented vehicle, the Element. The light truck, described as a “dorm on wheels,” is backed by a $15-20 million campaign from Rubin Postaer and Associates that uses the tagline, “Go with it.”

The two ads breaking this week have hip-looking young guys fondly recalling road trips with friends in the Element. One ad is built around surfing, the other around mountain biking. As the scene shifts between the stories and flashbacks of the experience, it becomes clear that the memory of the event is much rosier than what actually happened.

The unique features of the Element, which is part pickup truck, part SUV and part van, are highlighted throughout the spots. For example, the guys on the beach can easily throw a Frisbee through the vehicle because the “suicide doors” open in opposite directions to create a gaping portal through the middle. Fold-away seats and a wipe-down floor offer numerous options for cargo.

“It still has Honda’s personality, but this is not a vehicle you’d expect from Honda,” said Bill Hagelstein, evp and COO at RPA. “This is really a dorm on wheels. The Honda Civic has always had a strong appeal with a younger demographic, but [the Element] will bring even more young people into the Honda family.”

“When they get away with friends, these guys couldn’t have a bad time if they tried,” said David Smith, agency svp and creative director, who created the spots with fellow svp and cd Joe Baratelli. “We wanted to show the Element plays a key role in their escapes.”

Doug Hoffman, Honda national ad manager, said the media buy, also handled by RPA, will lean heavily on cable TV, particularly action/sports programming targeting young men. He said the Torrance, Calif., car maker projects sales of 50,000 units for the first year.

Hoffman noted that the informal feel of the ads, which focus as much on the people as on the vehicle, reflects the skittishness of the target demo. “We know this target sees through anything he considers phony,” Hoffman said, adding that the ads deliberately play up the importance of friendship for young people. “One of the things the agency came up with was the fact that guys tend to remember their experiences differently.”