Honda Turns to 'Spokescrumbs' to Tout Odyssey's Built-in Vacuum System

Mini-Van Campaign First to Use 'Start Something Special' Line

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In new spots breaking Sept. 3, RPA will use what American Honda Motor Co. calls animated "spokescrumbs" to illustrate that the top-end model of the redesigned 2014 Honda Odyssey mini-van comes with a built-in vacuum cleaner.

An on-board vacuum cleaner will likely strike the parents who purchase minivans as a terrific idea. In fact, Tom Peyton, assistant VP-national advertising for American Honda, who oversees national advertising for both Honda and Acura, said the "HondaVAC" generated a positive reaction among owners in focus groups. (The idea of adding an on-board vacuum cleaner to the Odyssey was suggested by daughter of a Honda engineer, according to the company.)

Actors Rainn Wilson of "The Office" (playing a gummy bear) and Neil Patrick Harris of "How I Met Your Mother" (playing a ball of lint) provide voiceovers for some of the CGI-animated creatures.

The three new TV spots revolve around the floor of the Odyssey where the spokescrumbs are having a good old time -- until an Odyssey owner swoops in with an the trusty HondaVAC to clean them out for good.

In one spot called "Owners Manual," the tiny creatures are reciting the various features of the mini-van until they come to the page about the HondaVAC -- which they circle ominously with a crayon. "This sucks," says one, before they're all sucked into the vacuum cleaner.

Another spot called "It's Here" shows a French fry, an elephant cookie and a ball of lint with what looks like two Fruit Loops sticking out of the top enjoying movies and music from the back seat.

Suddenly, a green gummy bear stumbles into the frame warning the end is near. "We're all doomed," it says, before they too are,swept up by the HondaVAC.

Yes, the spokescrumbs are cute. But what if some viewers are sorry to see the spokescrumbs sucked up into the vacuum cleaner?

Mr. Peyton laughed when asked if the creatures are too cute. If a media debate starts over whether they're too cute to get vacuumed up, he'll take it. "They're memorable and likable," he said.

The new Odyssey campaign will run across network and cable TV, online video and print. There will also be digital homepage takeovers on Amazon, AOL and the Huffington Post. And a product placement tie-in with Fox's The X Factor. A fully-loaded, top-end Odyssey sells for $44,450.

Mr. Peyton declined to comment on spending for the new campaign. Honda spent around $53 million on Odyssey advertising in 2012, according to Kantar Media.

Mr. Peyton said he wants to keep Odyssey America's best-selling mini-van.

The spots will also mark the debut of a new Honda tagline, "Start Something Special," that seeks to illustrate the special bond Honda owners have with their vehicles.

RPA used the proposed tag to retain the business during the agency review. "We thought it was a tremendous theme that could run throughout a lot of our advertising," Mr. Peyton said.

The Los Angeles-based RPA has held the Honda business since 1986. During one of the most closely-watched agency reviews in years, RPA managed to successfully defend its flagship Honda business although it lost creative on the Acura luxury car account to Interpublic Group's Mullen and media duties to Publicis Groupe's MediaVest.

Honda ranked as the fourth-best-selling nameplate in unit sales through July 2013, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

The Honda division sold 794,886 vehicles through the first seven months of this year, up 9% from the same period in 2012. Ford Motor Co.'s Ford division ranked No. 1 with 1,437,609 units sold. General Motors' Chevrolet unit was second at 1,177,804 and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A flagship Toyota came in third at 1,119,478 per Automotive News data.

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