NEW CIVIC GETS HONDA'S BIGGEST-EVER INTEGRATION PUSH

Deal Weaves Brand Through MTV and VH1 Programming

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DETROIT -- In an effort to boost its appeal among younger buyers as it rolls out its eighth-generation Civic, American Honda Motor Co. has signed a multiplatform brand integration deal with Viacom siblings MTV and VH1.

Civic will use brand integrations throughout VH1 and MTV programming to reach its target audience of young drivers.


The effort to target 20- and 30-somethings has already included Honda’s first product integration deal, with Mark Burnett and his Rock Star: INXS reality show on Viacom's CBS, in which the 2006 model prominently appears. The three finalists picked tonight will be composing songs in the car. Honda has auto exclusivity for the show.

The Civic arrives in showrooms Sept. 15.

Biggest-ever ad blitz

Tom Peyton, senior manager for national advertising at Honda, said the Civic launch marks the automaker’s largest budgeted ad blitz, costing 50% more than any other launch. He declined to reveal specifics, but the $75 million intro of the redone 2003 model Accord was most likely Honda’s former biggest launch. Although the bulk of the buy is on broadcast and network TV, that percentage of the total budget is less than the past, with a “plethora of Internet and elsewhere,” he said. “We have a huge tie-in with MTV and VH1 that includes lots of programming and vignettes.”

That deal marks the cable TV networks’ most extensive ever involving “multiple screens” and includes special online content, a sweepstakes to win a new Civic, a "flash mob" concert, special TV vignettes and a mobile phone element, said John Shea, executive vice president of integrated marketing for MTV Networks Music Group, which includes VH1. “We created a one-of-a-kind exclusive program for Honda,” he said.

A 12-week campaign dubbed “Honda Civic Under the Hood” starts Oct. 1 with the two cable TV networks. Viewers of MTV’s Sunday Stew programming block and VH1’s Celebreality will see branded, music-based “Under the Hood” interstitials aimed at driving them to mtv.com and vh1.com.

E-mail addresses and ZIP Codes

Honda is sponsoring the “Live @ VH1.com” and “MTV.com Live” areas of the sites, where visitors can enter their ZIP codes to vote for their city winning a concert by an undisclosed national artist. Consumers can also send in their ZIP codes via their wireless phones by sending a text message. The community with the most votes through Dec. 25 will get the concert.

Each of the cable TV networks is creating six separate two-minute vignettes, sponsored by Honda with visual bookends. Every clip will provide a behind-the-scenes look at one artist’s appearance at the networks’ live music franchises. Messaging about the new Civic and flash-mob concert will be integrated into the vignettes.

In addition, Honda's paid TV spots on MTV and VH1 for the 2006 Civic will carry tags to drive tune-in tag for the networks’ vignettes. The automaker and the networks are collaborating on separate, tune-in promotional tags for each network. VH1 will promote its program, Honda’s online sponsorship and the sweepstakes during episodes of its weekly Top 20 Video Countdown program.

DVD and flash mob concert

The deal includes a Honda Civic displayed at the MTV Store in Manhattan’s Times Square. In the first quarter of 2006, MTV and VH1 will co-produce a DVD of the flash-mob concert to be distributed through Honda’s print partners.

"Flash mob" is the name for the relatively new practice of staging impromptu, short-notice concerts by flashing the information about the location to thousands of text-messaging fans who converge as a enthusiastic mob to hear the music.

The two cable TV networks will co-produce the flash-mob concert and keep consumers abreast of the leading cities during the promotion. Details of the winning concert will be sent to consumers the same way they entered, either online or by cell phone, plus broadcast on MTV and VH1's XM Satellite Radio stations as well as the network's broadband entertainment networks -Vspot and MTV Overdrive.

Mr. Shea said Honda and its longtime agency, independent RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., asked the cable TV networks to submit ideas for the Civic launch. “Music is the common denominator for both MTV and VH1 and both channels have significant multi-screen capabilities,” he said. “The largest piece of content is online for both.”

RockStarMSN.com

Separately, Honda’s deal with the Mark Burnett-produced Rock Star: INXS includes an online component with MSN at rockstarmsn.com, where consumers can enter to win a 2006 Civic. Lisa Herdman, vice president and associate director of network programming at RPA handling national TV buys for Honda, said the deal was negotiated “outside the upfronts,” since the show started airing July 11. Until this week, Honda’s new Ridgeline pickup was the exclusive auto advertiser. Now it’s Civic’s turn.

The current Civic buyer is in his or her late 30s to early 40s, when they had been in their late 20s to early 30s, said Art Spinella, president of consultancy CNW Marketing Research.

The Civic, once the most popular car of young "tuners," fell out of favor after the last generation arrived as a 2001 model with different driving dynamics, styling and higher price.

'Making Honda cool again'

But American Honda’s newest executive, John Mendel, told Ad Age earlier this year “making Honda cool again” is at the top of his agenda. Mr. Mendel, senior vice president for automotive operations, arrived at the automaker late last year from Mazda to oversee product planning, advertising, marketing, distribution and public relations for both Honda and Acura.

The automaker said its Honda brand sales through August rose by 4.9% to 847,679 units, but its total car sales slipped by 4.4% to 468,508 units vs. the same period a year ago. The Accord and Civic respectively are the brand ’s two best selling models. Honda spent $273 million in measured media in the first half of 2005, says TNS Media Intelligence.
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