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December 11, 2006: "Happy Honda Days" Spans Multimedia

In hopes to lure holiday buyers, Honda has refreshed its previous campaign and added many online elements.

Honda hopes it will soon have a lot to be thankful for. On Thanksgiving Day, the Japanese car company rolled out is third consecutive "Happy Honda Days" integrated advertising campaign. Honda is one of the world's largest automakers and currently employs more than 28,000 Americans in 14 manufacturing plants, including three R&D centers.

Honda's Santa Monica, CA-based ad agency, RPA, which has represented the car company for 20 years, created the previous two "Happy Honda Days" campaigns. According to RPA Executive Vice President Dennis Remsing, the theme and tag remain the same, but the 2006 campaign, which will run five weeks, has some new twists.

In 2004, the campaign centered on carolers singing a Honda holiday carol, juxtaposed in typical life settings such as a family dinner or in an elevator. That same theme was used last year with different life settings. This year, the spots feature greeting cards with music played by guitarist Christopher Bruce. In-dealership materials (point-of purchase kits) and radio ads are also new.

The ad campaign's target audience is 25-to 54-year-old in-market consumers.

"The integral message across all media platforms is that this is the time to buy or lease a Honda," notes RPA Interactive Management Supervisor Fern Shlauter. "We're also making a bigger push online and have developed the web page more by adding an entertaining viral component and more user involvement."

The Happy Honda Days web page went live November 23. One viral marketing example on the site is the Build a Holiday Postcard feature. Viewers can select from a variety of winter scenes, then add a Honda model, accents like snowflakes, a snowman, a holly border or electric lights, toss in a personal message and then send it.

A banner ad campaign, called "Sleigh," includes five animated ads designed to drive traffic to the website. The different variations focus on specific models or model families, like Accord.

In-page ad units (refers to the ad placement; these are generally Internet Advertising Bureau ad units like 728 x 90 or 160 x 600) are currently running on various auto shopping websites, some of which include AOL Autos, Autobytel, Automotive, AutoTrader, Bankrate, Car & Driver,, CarsDirect, Consumer Guides, Kelley Blue Book, Motor Trend, Road & Track and Yahoo! Autos.

This month, high-traffic home page spotlights and category placements were added on the aforementioned sites; the goal here, says Shlauter, is to raise awareness among consumers who may not be currently considering buying a Honda.

Honda has also simultaneously begun a TV blitz. Spots are now running on TV shows "Ugly Betty," "Six Degrees," "Brothers & Sisters," "Extreme Home Makeover," "Shark," "Ghost Whisperer," "Num3ers," "Amazing Race" and "Deal or No Deal." Targeted cable networks include A&E, ABC Family, CMT, ESPN News, FX, FOX Sports Net, NFL Network, Sci Fi, Spike and TV Land.

While RPA and Honda decline to reveal how much the ad campaign cost to develop and produce, Remsing says, "Sales are the ultimate basis of our metrics." 

Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, CA-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company with affiliates in Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, and the United Kingdom.

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