Honda Sponsors Internet Reality Show

To promote its new hatchback, "The Fit," Honda will sponsor an original reality show created for the Web.

The show, dubbed "Cube Fabulous," focuses on renovating office workers' cubicles. So far, six five-minute episodes have been produced. The first will go live May 15, with a new installment launching every two weeks.

Honda's Tom Peyton, senior manager for advertising, described the initiative as an experiment designed to test the effectiveness of online marketing. "Like the rest of the world, we're trying to gauge how far online video viewing has come, and we thought this was just a great opportunity to do that," Peyton said.

The Honda sponsorship will involve both 15-second pre-roll ads and product placement within the spots. The show's lead designers, or "cube fabricators," will drive in Hondas to various stores where they will shop for new office decorations; one 1960s-themed renovation features the "fabricators" using a Honda to transport lava lamps and shag carpets.

The clips also will carry links to a Web site for "The Fit," where consumers will be able to watch ads, configure cars, and get additional information, Peyton said. While Honda doesn't expect to sell cars online as a result of this venture, the company will assess click-through rates when evaluating the success of the initiative. "We do know that people who visit our Web site have a much greater propensity to purchase a car," Peyton said.

Broadband Enterprises will syndicate the Webisodes to its affiliates, including ifilm.com, nationallampoon.com, and Lycos.com, and also will create a standalone destination for the clips. The goal, said Matt Wasserlauf, CEO of Broadband Enterprises, is to serve 100 million views to a total of 10 million unique users. The company especially hopes to reach consumers between the ages of 18 and 34.

The agency RPA created the ads and arranged for the sponsorship. Meridee Alter, senior vice president-media director at RPA, said the show's content--redecorating a small space to make it seem larger--was seen as particularly relevant to "The Fit," which markets itself as roomier than it first looks.

The 15-second pre-roll spots for Honda are also airing on national broadcast and cable networks, in a campaign that broke over the weekend, Alter said.

Broadband Enterprises' Wasserlauf added that Honda is not the exclusive online advertiser; other marketers also will be able to purchase 15- or 30-second pre-roll spots.

Honda not alone in trying to reach car buyers via original content distributed in non-traditional mediums. Toyota also recently launched a promotion with Fox that links the "Yaris" brand with the drama "Prison Break." For the initiative, Toyota will sponsor a series of 26 two-minute shorts created for mobile phones.

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