Honda, which is fond of using visual razzle-dazzle in its ads, is unleashing some new optical tricks as it seeks to inject new life into its subcompact Fit.
The campaign for the 2018 model comes as small-car sales continue to slump. Honda is trying to spark new interest with a range of content across multiple platforms that it bills as its "most robust multicultural, mobile and social-driven campaign to date."
The campaign plugs the car as a small but roomy vehicle for entry-level buyers. One video by RPA begins with a typical backyard scene. Then suddenly the entire ad set gets packed into the back of the Fit.
Another spot, geared for Hulu, shows the video player's buttons being tossed into the back of the car.
Video ads for Snapchat and Instagram stories show emojis and other visual elements native to the apps being tossed into a Fit. This weekend, Honda runs geo-targeted Snapchat filters targeting people celebrating Labor Day weekend. In mid-September, Honda goes after college students with filters targeting college campuses.
Honda's visual tricks come as marketers search for ways to keep ads compelling in the era of ad-skipping and blocking. Insurance marketer Geico has proven to be a master at the tactic with ads such as its "Unskippable" pre-roll ad campaign in 2015 that won the Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Honda and RPA have a track record of putting out video eye candy, including ads made by stop-motion artist Pes. Earlier this year the automaker made celebrity yearbook photos come to life in a Super Bowl ad for the CR-V SUV.
But ads for the 2018 Fit, which began hitting dealers in mid-July, face the added challenge of breaking through in the depressed small-car market. Honda sold 31,126 Fits in the first seven months of the year, down 5.2% from the previous year, according to data compiled by Automotive News. Competing subcompacts are also slumping, like Nissan's Versa (down 23.6%), Ford's Fiesta (down 5%) and chevy's Sonic (down 38.1%).
Honda relies on digital to get the word out as it seeks younger buyers for the Fit. Digital will account for 80% of the campaign spend, says Susie Rossick, assistant VP of marketing at American Honda Motor Co. For other models, Honda typically puts 30% to 40% into digital, she says.
While trucks and SUVs drive the most interest among buyers, Honda still views the Fit as a critical brand to attract first-time buyers. The car's starting price tag is $16,190. Some 70% of Fit buyers are new Honda customers and 58% of Fit come back to buy a second Honda.
"No doubt the segment is down," Rossick says. [But] we're not walking away from it. We see this as a great opportunity to get millennials back into Honda." That includes Hispanic and African-American buyers for whom Honda is running dedicated campaigns.
One ad by Honda's Hispanic agency Orci is called "Secret Life of Fits" that shows the car having some fun on its own.
Multicultural shop Muse is behind a series of ads called "Fituation" that targets African Americans and features Instagram star Renny.