DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- American Honda Motor Co. is hoping to reach a broad audience to market its new Insight hybrid sedan -- so it has tapped Microsoft's Xbox Live.
It's Honda's first partnership with Xbox and part of a multimedia launch for the vehicle. The automaker will be the sole sponsor of Xbox Live Primetime's "Play and Win," a three-month-long interactive quiz game that will launch May 15. Using Xbox's internet-connected Live platform, the game will pit one gamer against 100 other gamers. Honda will run the car's 30-second TV launch ads or 15-second versions in the game for people in the waiting room and during an intermission, said Jenny Howell, manager-interactive marketing at the automaker. A 2010-model Insight will be the top prize.
Biggest online-gaming venture
The brand has dabbled in gaming before, but the Xbox venture is Honda's biggest in online gaming, said Ms. Howell, who declined to reveal specifics.
Ms. Howell said the automaker liked the game-show format of the property, which she expects to draw more casual gamers vs. the traditional online-gaming crowd of young men. Another plus, she said, is the deal is "a great way to be in an uncluttered environment."
The new Insight -- in no way similar to the smaller, quirky, discontinued, two-door Honda Insight hybrid -- is aimed at people between the ages of 24 and 54. Honda expects buyers to range from first-time new-car buyers to empty nesters. The Insight TV ads that will appear in the Xbox game don't target young people but have a youthful feel, Ms. Howell said.
Honda's ad agency, independent RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., brought the idea to the marketer. Ms. Howell said Honda has "been wanting to do something with Xbox before, but this is the first one that fit."
Good match for first-time buyers?
Lincoln Merrihew, senior VP of TNS North America's auto arm, isn't so sure of that. Because the Insight, with its $20,470 starting price tag, is more expensive than the Honda Fit, a small, gas-powered car that starts at $15,420, the Fit may be, well, a better fit, for Xbox and first-time buyers. Mr. Merrihew said he wonders how many 50-year-old women will be engaged in the new game.
Ms. Howell said Honda considered only Insight -- not the latest Fit, which arrived last fall -- for the Xbox program.
She said Honda has a game on its own site for the Fit, and it engages visitors "for minutes at a time." She said Microsoft will promote the new game via public relations and heavily through Xbox.
The Honda brand spent $507 million in U.S. measured media last year vs. $569 million the year before, according to TNS Media Intelligence, although the figures exclude outdoor, internet and national spot radio. The automaker launched Insight this week in a multimedia blitz under the theme "Hybrid for Everyone."