Lowdown: Takata Airbag Recall Is Massive But Drivers Unaware

New Survey Finds Dangerous Defect Has Lower Awareness Than Zika

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The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.

The Takata Corp. logo is displayed outside the company's headquarters in Tokyo.
The Takata Corp. logo is displayed outside the company's headquarters in Tokyo. Credit: Koichi Kamoshida/Bloomberg

The Takata airbag recall is massive, affecting 33 auto brands and 32 million vehicles, which is more than the next five largest recalls from the past 20 years combined, according to Kelley Blue Book. The defect is also potentially dangerous: Front airbags meant to protect passengers involved in collisions might cause injury or death by deploying incorrectly. Yet drivers seem to be blissfully unaware. While one in eight vehicles is affected, many drivers don't know it, according to a new survey by Kelley Blue Book. Awareness stands at 52%, which is lower than the Zika virus (84%) and Hillary Clinton's email woes (87%), the survey found. And of those respondents who are aware, only 31% said they are very or extremely concerned, compared with 49% for Zika and 79% for terrorism.

"Consumer opinions on the Takata airbag recall seem to be another unfortunate case of people thinking 'it won't happen to me,' but this is easily the largest, most expensive automotive safety issue in U.S. history," Karl Brauer, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. He urged drivers to look up their vehicle's status on safercar.gov and check with their manufacturer. Free repairs are available.

An ad from the Beer Institute.
An ad from the Beer Institute. Credit: Beer Institute

The beer industry's move yesterday announcing an agreement by top brewers to list nutritional information on their brews drew a ton of mass media coverage. But the Beer Institute, which is the trade group leading the effort, made a very targeted ad play when initially announcing the initiative on Tuesday morning. The group bought ads that were wrapped around the Washington Post. But the ads were only included in papers delivered to congressional offices in Washington, D.C. Banner ads will also run on The Hill and Roll Call. The initiative is voluntary -- and the beer industry would like to keep it that way, rather than being subjected to government mandates. That explains why D.C. lawmakers and influencers are a key audience that the Beer Institute is always trying to win over.

As for the initiative itself, a lot of drinkers won't notice much difference. The program calls for brands to list calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat and alcohol by volume on their beer products by including a serving facts statement. But many big brands already do this. MillerCoors has been especially aggressive, adding the information in recent years on big brands such as Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon and Henry's Hard Soda. Bud Light and Budweiser also already include nutritional information. Heineken USA plans to add the labels on Heineken next month and on Tecate and Dos Equis within six months, according to a spokesman. Constellation Brands -- whose beers include Corona -- does not list the information on packs. But a spokesman said the brewer plans to comply with the initiative, which gives brewers until 2020 to add the information.

What does it all mean for craft brewers? They did not partake in the agreement. Beer Business Daily speculated today that the Brewers Association -- which represents craft brewers -- "no doubt is not a fan." The trade pub added that "not only is it costly to include additional info on labels and to lab test the beer, but it would shine a spotlight on the fact that craft beers are comparably very high in calories, carbs, and alcohol." Brewers Association CEO Bob Pease in a statement said the group "supports transparency in labeling" and "our members already invest substantial time in complying with extensive federal regulations so that consumers can make informed choices when purchasing beer." But he added that "while we appreciate the Beer Institute's efforts to support additional nutritional transparency, we recognize that the approach the large brewers have taken may not be feasible for smaller brewers, many of whom offer dozens of small scale, seasonal products every year."

In other beer news, Bud Light is extending its politically-themed "Bud Light Party" campaign into music. The brand is launching a 13-city tour called "Bud Light Party Conventions," that will include performances by Flo Rida, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, T-Pain and others. The first stop is August 5 in Phoenix.

A rendering of Taco Bell's Las Vegas Strip restaurant.
A rendering of Taco Bell's Las Vegas Strip restaurant. Credit: Taco Bell

Here's even more booze news: Taco Bell is placing a big bet on its boozy Cantina concept, taking it to the Las Vegas strip. The Yum Brands chain plans to open what it is calling a flagship restaurant at Harmon Corner on the Strip this fall. The 24-hour location is a bit different from a typical Taco Bell. Along with bright signs that should fit right in in Sin City, it will offer eight flavors of Twisted Freezes frozen drinks that can be ordered with or without alcohol. The two-story Strip spot comes as Taco Bell aims to expand in urban markets and follows the debut of less-flashy Cantina locations in Chicago and San Francisco in 2015.

Kellogg's Frosted Flakes' new campaign has a new twist on mascot Tony the Tiger's saying. The cereal brand is telling tweens and others to "Let your Gr-r-reat out." Leo Burnett spots that began airing this week star Nicola, a girl in a wheelchair who tests her skills at a skate park with Tony along to offer encouragement for the ride. The brand is also showcasing its new star in an online profile video. Media spending on Frosted Flakes declined significantly last year according to the Ad Age Datacenter, dropping 27.6% to about $30.6 million.

Advertising Age Player

Fanatics is catering to the sports fan in everyone with a new, multi-million-dollar campaign, "Love Never Loses," debuting Wednesday during ABC's ESPY Awards. New TV spots, created by Minneapolis-based Fallon, capture user-generated videos to illustrate the enthusiasm and the mania of fans. The marketing plays into 21-year-old Fanatics' new branding, which includes a recently unveiled company logo and website. The company hired Chris Orton as CMO from Orbitz two years ago.

Advertising Age Player

Silvercar -- a rental car company that only offers fully-loaded Audis -- has signed up Troy Aikman as an endorser. He stars in the brand's first TV ad. The spot was produced by Vice Media and began airing on July 12.

Advertising Age Player

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jessica Wohl, Adrianne Pasquarelli

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