Working its way through a tough year of sales hits from competitors and a debilitating disaster in Japan, American Honda, via its agency, RPA, has launched a fresh integrated ad campaign featuring the deadpan comedic actor Patrick Warburton.
Known in the past as David Putty in "Seinfeld," and more recently as Jeff on the CBS TV series, "Rules of Engagement," the actor pitches the rational reasons one might buy a Honda Accord, Civic, Pilot, CR-V, Odyssey or Fit. Many of those reasons revolve around Edmunds.com, Kelley Blue Book and JD Power and Associates' top accolades for Honda products.
The campaign is called "Good Reasons," highlighting all the rational reasons to buy a Honda. "The Man," is the first of five commercials airing nationally that launched Sept. 12. In it, Mr. Warburton explains the entire campaign: "This year they sent a man in to do a cartoon man's job." Taking a jab at the "Mr. Opportunity" Honda cartoon ads, he describes himself as a superior "all-out-drop-dead-Honda-knowledge-dropping-tour-de-force." Other spots include topics covering everything from sex, lawyers and the 80's to "weird, moon-landing denier guys."
But the TV spots take a backseat to the web-only videos on the accompanying website. The videos place Mr. Warburton in front of a computer screen wall, clicking and scanning down through familiar websites both to make points about Honda's superiority and pop-culture viral video hits.
Jenny Howell, manager-Honda regional marketing for Honda, said, "The web portion is really the important part, because when you're wanting to reach online people who are shopping for cars, that 's where they are."
Mr. Warburton typically plays characters who are, to say the least, self-assured, but not necessarily bright. So the choice of him as a spokesman for Honda, which has had reason to be self-assured until more recent stiff competition from Hyundai, Ford, Kia and GM against its bread-and-butter cars such as the Civic, Accord and CR-V, is an interesting one.
The ads, which could have easily been more of the same as for regional car pitches, stand out with their comedic timing and ability to use popular web culture alongside rational buying claims by an established comedic actor. "We created a layer of honesty that isn't seen from most car manufacturers," said RPA Senior VP-Group Creative Director Jason Sperling. "And we show Honda's many strengths in a way that cuts through the cliches and usual tactics."
There is a social-media component as well. Honda's Facebook page will allow consumers to pipe in on different endings to the "Pay Attention" TV spot, with the winning ad being featured on TV in October. And, if worthy, Facebook comments will be called out by the actor to earn a "Stellar Comment Award."
In addition, there will also be plenty of online display advertising running on kbb.com, Edmunds.com and AutoTrader.com during the campaign. The campaign will run through November.