By Jean Halliday
In an effort to boost its appeal among younger buyers as it rolls out its eighth-generation Civic, American Honda Motor Co. has signed a multiplatform brand integration deal with Viacom siblings MTV and VH1.
The effort to target 20- and 30-somethings has already included Honda’s first product integration deal, with Mark Burnett and his “Rock Star: INXS” reality show on Viacom’s CBS, in which the 2006 model prominently appears. The three finalists, selected Sept. 14, will compose songs in the car. Honda has auto exclusivity for the show. The Civic arrived in showrooms Sept. 15.
Biggest-Ever Ad Blitz
Tom Peyton, senior manager for national advertising at Honda, said the Civic launch marks the automaker’s largest budgeted ad blitz, costing 50 percent more than any other launch. He declined to reveal specifics, but the $75 million intro of the redone 2003 model Accord was most likely Honda’s biggest previous launch. Though the bulk of the buy is on broadcast and network TV, that percentage of the total budget is less than the past, while a “plethora is Internet and elsewhere,” he said. “We have a huge tie-in with MTV and VH1 that includes lots of programming and vignettes.”
That deal marks the cable TV networks’ most extensive ever, involving “multiple screens” and including special online content, a sweepstakes to win a new Civic, a “flash mob” concert, special TV vignettes and a mobile phone element, said John Shea, executive VP of integrated marketing for MTV Networks Music Group, which includes VH1. “We created a one-of-a-kind exclusive program for Honda,” he said.
A 12-week campaign, dubbed “Honda Civic Under the Hood,” starts Oct. 1 with the two cable TV networks. Viewers of MTV’s Sunday Stew programming block and VH1’s Celebreality will see branded, music-based “Under the Hood” interstitials aimed at driving them to MTV.com and VH1.com.
E-mail and ZIP Codes
Honda is sponsoring the “Live@VH1.com” and “MTV.com Live” areas of the sites, where visitors can enter their ZIP codes to vote for their city to win a concert by an undisclosed national artist. Consumers can also send in their ZIP codes via text messages on their wireless phones. The community with the most votes through Dec. 25 will get the concert.
Each of the cable TV networks is creating six separate two-minute vignettes, sponsored by Honda, with visual bookends. Every clip will provide a behind-the-scenes look at one artist’s appearance at the networks’ live music franchises. Messaging about the new Civic and “flash mob” concert will be integrated into the vignettes.
In addition, Honda’s paid TV spots on MTV and VH1 for the 2006 Civic will carry tags to drive tune-in for the networks’ vignettes. The automaker and the networks are collaborating on separate, tune-in promotional tags for each network. VH1 will promote its program, Honda’s online sponsorship and the sweepstakes during episodes of its weekly Top 20 Video Countdown program.
DVD and ‘Flash Mob’
The deal includes a Honda Civic displayed at the MTV Store in Manhattan’s Times Square. In the first quarter of 2006, MTV and VH1 will co-produce a DVD of the “flash mob” concert to be distributed through Honda’s print partners.
“Flash mob” is the name for the relatively new practice of staging impromptu, short-notice concerts by flashing the information about the location to thousands of text messaging fans, who converge as an enthusiastic crowd to hear the music.
The two cable TV networks will co-produce the “flash mob” concert and keep consumers abreast of the leading cities during the promotion. Details of the winning concert will be sent to consumers the same way they entered: either online or by cellphone, plus broadcast on MTV and VH1’s XM Satellite Radio stations as well as the network’s broadband entertainment networks-Vspot and MTV Overdrive.
Mr. Shea said Honda and its longtime agency, independent RPA of Santa Monica, Calif., asked the cable TV networks to submit ideas for the Civic launch. “Music is the common denominator for both MTV and VH1, and both channels have significant multiscreen capabilities,” he said. “The largest piece of content is online for both.”
Separately, Honda’s deal with the Mark Burnett-produced “Rock Star: INXS” includes an online component with MSN at rockstarmsn.com, where consumers can enter to win a 2006 Civic. Lisa Herdman, VP and associate director of network programming at RPA handling national TV buys for Honda, said the deal was negotiated “outside the upfronts,” since the show started airing July 11. Until last week, Honda’s new Ridgeline pickup was the exclusive auto advertiser. Now it’s Civic’s turn.
The average Civic buyer is in his or her late 30s to early 40s; previously they have been in their late 20s to early 30s, said Art Spinella, president of consultancy CNW Marketing Research.
The Civic, once the most popular car of young “tuners,” fell out of favor after the last generation arrived as a 2001 model with different driving dynamics, styling and higher price.
But American Honda’s newest executive, John Mendel, told Advertising Age earlier this year that “making Honda cool again” is at the top of his agenda. Mr. Mendel, senior VP for automotive operations, arrived at the automaker late last year from Mazda to oversee product planning, advertising, marketing, distribution and public relations for both Honda and Acura.
The automaker said its Honda brand combined car and truck sales through August rose by 4.9 percent to 847,679 units, but its total car sales slipped by 4.4 percent to 468,508 units versus the same period a year ago. The Accord and Civic are the brand’s two best-selling models. Honda spent $273 million in measured media in the first half of 2005, says TNS Media Intelligence.