Honda Reads Minds of Consumers in Web Play

Automaker Looks to Build Subservient-Like Buzz for CR-V With Online Game

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DETROIT ( -- Beginning this week, if you're doing a web search for "chocolate," you might just be directed to Honda.

It's no mistake; Honda's ad agency, RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., bought thousands of search terms, such as cupcake, chocolate and other non-automotive delights, to direct consumers to an online game themed around the tagline for its CR-V sport utility called "Crave" (a play on the name of the vehicle).
Players read questions on an image of the CR-V navigation screen.
Players read questions on an image of the CR-V navigation screen.
The 20-questions-type game leverages sophisticated software that asks gamers rounds of questions until the answer pops up in either an animated picture or unique text.

Visitors play the "Guess What You Crave" game on an image of CR-V's navigation screen and can also play with radio dials or air vents on the dashboard, said Rich Pass, associate creative director at RPA. "There's highly efficient traffic through search," said RPA's Edmund Purcell, interactive-management supervisor, who declined to reveal spending on the blitz for the 2008 Honda CR-V.

Broad reach
American Honda Motor Co.'s volume brand will promote the game via e-mails and online ads on broad-reach and gaming sites to drive traffic to That URL also will be added to TV spots and print ads for CR-V.

For now, the "craved" items are generic, such as a cupcake or chocolate, but RPA is looking at co-branding options for the game, said Mr. Pass. If a player has something er, unseemly, in mind, the game has a fun, playful way of offsetting that, he said. He won't yet say what it is.

Tom Peyton, the senior manager-national advertising for the Honda brand, wants it to become as popular as Burger King's Subservient Chicken push. "We are very much hoping to catch the same buzz," he said, but among a different demographic: Honda's main target for CR-V is "cool moms in their 30s."

But not everyone is wild about the idea. JWT Detroit, Dearborn, Mich., is a bit annoyed at RPA's "Crave" campaign, since the agency has used "What You Crave" as White Castle's ad tag since successfully pitching the account 14 years ago, said David Maas, senior VP-group account director. JWT trademarked the tag in the fast-food category, but Mr. Maas conceded consumers wouldn't confuse burgers with cars. "I'm not a lawyer, but if someone used that phrase in our category, our client would pursue it."
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