Honda keeps rolling

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American Honda Motor Co. is among the marketers getting back to the business of marketing.

The company unveiled new TV commercials for its 2002 Accord over the weekend, and is set to break new spots for the 2002 Odyssey minivan. Next month, it will launch teaser ads for its revamped CR-V sport utility vehicle.

Honda has little choice but to try to create consumer demand for its vehicles. It-like all automakers-invests much time and massive amounts of money to develop products and equip factories that it can't afford to leave idle.

"We have to do business. It would put us in a bind if we tried to hold back the product," said Eric Conn, assistant VP-national advertising for the Honda and Acura brands.

Honda's ad spending will remain at previously planned levels, Mr. Conn said. Accord was supported with $48 million in measured media spending in the first half of 2001 and Odyssey with $22 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Honda put $123 million behind Accord and $48 million behind Odyssey in 2000.

The new creative work, from Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., maintains Honda's humorous, low-key approach, and retains actor Richard Dreyfuss as the narrator.

"People love their Hondas, so we don't have to bang the drums too hard," said Larry Postaer, director of creative services at the agency.

Each of the three :30s for the Accord sedan and coupe tout specific features. In one, a man packs a slew of big suitcases into the car to show off Accord's roomy trunk but then holds his aching back when he's done. "A lot of cargo room is a good thing, right?" asks the narrator. In another, three guys admire the car's engine, but it's clear they're clueless about its mechanical intricacies.

"It's one of the joys of parenthood" is the ad theme for the trio of Odyssey minivan spots. One shows a young couple packing everything in their toddler's room but the crib to demonstrate the minivan's folding "magic third-row seat" and cargo capability. The punch line is the family will only be gone for an hour. Another shows a dad waking his toddler in the back seat so he can keep driving the 240-horsepower minivan to try to lull her back to sleep.

The Accord, which gets a total redo for the 2003 model year, was the top-selling car in the U.S. through August at 288,402 units, according to Ad Age sibling Automotive News. Toyota Motor Sales USA's Camry, the best-selling car every year since 1997, trailed by 23,767 units.

"You have to admire Honda's staying power," said Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP at consultancy AMCI.

Although Odyssey didn't get a full revamp, Honda made some substantial upgrades to the power train and interior goodies, Mr. Sanfilippo said. "They did a tremendous amount of work to that vehicle and the improvements are substantive. It's a rocket."

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