ACURA EXEC DISDAINS BRANDING-ONLY CAR ADS SUISSA MILLER, AUTOMAKER USING SO-CALLED 'BRAND RETAIL' SPOTS TO SELL

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[tokyo] Don't praise brand advertising to Rich Thomas, general manager of American Honda Motor Co.'s Acura Division. He thinks it's a waste of money.

"You shouldn't spend money on brand ads if it doesn't sell cars," Mr. Thomas said in an interview at the Tokyo Motor Show last month. "You won't see warm-and-fuzzy brand advertising from Acura, but it won't be jump-up-and-down retail either."

Instead, Acura and agency Suissa Miller, Los Angeles, have created an ad genre they call "brand retail"-product-specific ads but with a brandlike whimsy to them.

HEAVY ON PRODUCT

"We're looking at being heavy on what the product does and what it means for the customer," Mr. Thomas said.

He said Acura has launched brand retail in three phases:

nThe "What's an RL?" sequence of ads for the entire product line that started in February, designed to boost awareness of Acura's alphanumeric lineup.

nSome storytelling in ads, but still heavy on getting the Acura name connected with the product, which broke in the summer.

nStorytelling spots that just recently started airing that connect product features to the story.

For example, the new spot for the TL series shows a well-groomed man being messaged that "There's one rocket left" as he races across town, secret agent-style, in his TL. The camera shows a menacing red rocket that suddenly becomes a toy-store birthday gift for the man's son.

NAVIGATION SYSTEM

An ad now being shown to focus groups shows off Acura's in-dash navigation system, allowing a 3.5RL owner to return a lost dog to a specific address.

Mr. Thomas said Acura will have four marketing events every year, with the timing told to dealers well in advance so they can build inventories appropriately.

Mr. Rechtin is a staff reporter with Automotive News.

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