Redesigned 2003 Model Gets $75 Million Push

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DETROIT ( -- American Honda Motor Co. sold more Accords in August -- a record 48,269 units -- than in any month since its U.S. debut in 1976.

So what does Honda do for an encore? The automaker is replacing that 2002 best-seller with a totally redone, seventh-generation model that goes on sale Sept. 9.

Honda is giving the 2003 Accord a $75 million advertising send-off, its biggest launch this year. Spots break Sept. 9 on ABC's Monday Night Football telecast and print ads will run in USA Today. The marketer goes dark on Sept. 11 to honor the anniversary of the terrorist attack and returns the next day with an ad blitz running through October that heavily favors TV but will includes print and online ads.

Honda's best-selling model and 2001's top U.S.-selling car has long sold on the basis of its durability, quality and reliability. Now Honda will be trying to snag some new customers by adding a new element: emotional appeal.

Doug Hoffman, national ad manager at Honda, said the goals of the campaign are to let consumers know "it's new, it's more stylish and more sophisticated and it still has the practicality of your old Accord."

Available as first-time options are a voice-activated navigation system, DVD audio player and 240 horsepower in a new V-6 engine.

Independent Rubin Postaer and Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., created four Accord TV spots, which will get heavy national air play in September and October. A 60-second spot arrives in theaters in October and continues through November, a first for Honda. Separately, the agency is developing a brand spot that will only run at IMAX theaters.

"The new Accord has changed as much or more in this generation than any time before," said Bill Hagelstein, executive vice president at Rubin. The 2003 redesign, he said, "has a more emotional, sensual style."

Styling and gizmos
And Honda wants to show that off, Mr. Hoffman said. That's why three of the spots highlight the styling and optional gizmos. The commercials all end with the on-screen title: "More Accord than ever before."

The automaker sold 414,718 Accords last year, according to sibling Automotive News. Mr. Hoffman would only say he expects to sell more than 400,000 Accords in the 2003 model year.

He said he's studying whether to do a teaser campaign before the all-new, youth-targeted Element sport utility vehicle goes on sale Dec. 16. Element is Honda's fourth new model this year, making this its largest new-product push in one year.

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