Acura effort plays up 'joy'

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American Honda Motor Co.'s Acura, anticipating record sales despite few incentives, is sticking with its strategy of stressing performance and the joy of driving in a print, TV and radio campaign.

The effort breaks today and suggests life can be perfect driving an Acura. The spots for the marketer's 2003 models follow the same formula: the owners drive from one place with inconveniences to another imperfect spot. The four 30-second spots from independent Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., tout Acura cars and its MDX sport utility.

In one, a male RSX coupe owner leaves behind his "deluxe 400-square-foot bachelor [apartment] with a partial view." He's driving to his "junior executive, semi-private [cubicle] with no view," the voice-over says. "But right now, life is perfect on the open road" in his "six-speed, 260-horsepower RSX Type S." The campaign drops Acura's two-year-old habit of opening each commercial with a key in the ignition (see the spot at QwikFIND aano06x).

The popular MDX sport utility, which is Acura's second-best selling model, is featured in two of the four spots.

The broadcast-network buy includes CBS's National Football League broadcasts through December, three-week flights for three months in spot TV broadcast-network favorites like NBC's "Friends" and CBS's "60 Minutes." The ads will also appear on more than 20 national cable networks including CNN, ESPN, Bravo and A&E. Acura will run 10-second spots during drive times on National Public Radio daily through Nov. 15. The agency also created spreads and "checkerboard" magazine ads that will appear in more than 50 titles through December. Among them: Conde Nast Publications' Architectural Digest and GQ, Forbes, Time Inc.'s Fortune, Wenner Media's Rolling Stone and Miller Publishing's Tennis.

Acura Advertising Manager Rob Alen declined to discuss spending, saying only "we are a consistent advertiser." Acura spent $215 million in measured media last year and $87 million in the first half of 2002, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

He said the brand would top last year's sales record of 170,000 units in 2002, with an anticipated 175,000 units. That's without incentives, since Acura's only incentive is a lease deal on the RL sedan.

Joan Egan, senior VP-group account director at Rubin Postaer, said Acura has increased owner loyalty by 95% in the past two years because of its broadened lineup.

The industry's average loyalty rate is 20%, while Acura's hovers near 45%, said Art Spinella, VP of consultancy CNW Marketing/Research. He added that Acura has more buyers considering its brand, as many as 4% compared to a 2.5% of all new-vehicle intenders vs. a year ago.

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