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How Acura Built Its New TV Campaign for Mobile

By Published on .

In Acura's new campaign, it's hard to tell what moves faster -- the car or the ads themselves. The marketer crammed roughly 50 unique images in each one of its five 30-second spots and about 25 images in each of its seven 15-second ads. Each scene shot is vertically and layered into the TV commercials by dividing the screen in three.

The colorful mishmash -- which includes flashes of random images like a sci-fi superhero in a red metal suit -- is aimed at giving Acura's new 2018 TLX luxury sedan a modern, youthful feel. But the campaign, called "What a Ride," also has a more practical goal when it comes to Acura's media buy: The visuals are shot vertically so they are easily transferable to mobile ad formats. And Acura purposely avoided celebrities and spoken dialogue so that it can adjust the ads on the fly to adapt to market conditions. The so-called modular approach means that if, for instance, Acura wants to tout all-wheel drive in cold-weather cities, it could easily toss in that message in a quick scene without rejiggering the entire ad.

"We also can see what combination performs best over time. Or if we are hearing feedback in terms of other attributes of the car that we may not have predicted, it's very easy for us to cut it and have that option available quickly," said Ed Beadle, senior manager-integrated marketing at Acura. "If you are relying on the schtick of some heavy talent spot with comedy and plucky one-liners, it's very difficult to try to adjust that messaging."

This type of flexible approach, including vertical visuals, has gained in popularity across the ad industry as brands seek to make ads that are suitable for TV and mobile, where viewers often encounter spots with the sound off. It is proof of how much mobile players like Snapchat and Instagram Stories -- which use vertical video ad formats -- are influencing creative approaches.

Agencies on the Acura campaign include MullenLowe Los Angeles for creative and RPA for media buying. (Acura is owned by Honda, which recently shifted media duties to RPA.)

Acura executives declined to detail the media buy for the TLX campaign because they said it had not been finalized. But Mr. Beadle said digital will account for roughly 40% of the spending. Acura also confirmed it has prepared 6-second ads and that the buy includes Snapchat ads and Facebook's Canvas ads. "When you shoot this way from the beginning, you are already prepared so that you can adapt to any channel that is relevant," he said. "Flexibility is a key strategy for this campaign."

The TV spots, which will break at the end of May, are backed by the song "The Movement" by Kid Ink. Acura plans to debut the new TLX campaign at an event today at the ArtBeam venue that near the New York International Auto Show, which gets underway this week at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Pop singer Elle King is scheduled to perform Acura's event.

The TLX launch comes at a critical time for Acura as it seeks to reverse declining sales and battle industry dynamics in which car sales have been hurt by surging demand for trucks and SUVs. Acura car sales fell 28.5% in the first three months of the year to 9,806 vehicles, according to data compiled by Automotive News. Acura's SUVs, the MDX and RDX, fell by 8.4% and 9.9% respectively.

In a January interview with Automotive News, Jim Morino, chairman of Acura's dealer advisory board, called 2016 a "tough year," citing the Takata airbag recall situation that "caused havoc in all of our lives." He also said dealers have had "some very candid conversations about aggressiveness of advertising and awareness for Acura," but credited Acura with "changing that message so that it's more aggressive than it has been in the past."

The TLX campaign is under the larger "Precision Crafted Performance" marketing platform that Acura launched in early 2016. Its goal is to give the automaker's marketing a more consistent feel with a youthful, optimistic tone.

"We have to establish a great foundation for ourselves and get our brand out there and get everybody to understand who we are," said Jon Ikeda, VP-general manager for the Acura Division of American Honda Motor Co. "Once people understand a little better and get clarity of what we represent and what we are doing, then I think the sales side will come."

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