Honda, Nissan Target Urban Buyers With Guerrilla Techniques

Both Honda and Nissan are launching viral/guerrilla efforts to reach younger, urban buyers.

Honda has launched an effort, via African-American market agency Muse Communications, L.A., aimed at pitching its Civic car to urban consumers. The effort, "Swagger," features directors and black comedians Jackie Long and DeRay Davis in both commercial and Web-based content.

The campaign, a kind of tutorial for cool, features a national cable spot TV ad and a series of Webisodes delving into topics like how to be cool in one's Civic, how to meet women in a parking lot after a night visiting clubs, and the proper way to lean against one's Civic, so one's stance evinces swaggering self-confidence and not foot problems.

There will also be national radio and targeted print media. The Webisodes are available on BET.com/Honda beginning this week. Nissan is promoting its keyless entry and ignition on the 2007 Altima with a national grassroots initiative called "Lost Keys." Starting this week, street teams will place about 20,000 sets of mock keys in 50 nightclubs, bars and sports arenas in each of seven major markets including New York, Miami, L.A., and Chicago. The key chains have a holder that reads: "If found, please do not return. My Next Generation Nissan Altima has Intelligent key with Push Button Ignition, and I no longer need these." The effort, via Nissan's diversity and urban agency True, L.A., includes a tie-in with Vibe magazine: whoever finds the keys are asked to text MVibe or go to www.altimakeys.com, to get either a card for free gasoline or a six-month subscription to Vibe.

Both Honda and Nissan have run similar efforts in the past. Honda launched Civic Nation four years ago to promote the car as an urban blank canvas for customizing, with posters, ads and events around tuning, or customizing import cars.

True has done many campaigns for Nissan targeting urbanites. The agency recently created the "Hotness" campaign, which featured ads in which people who touched Nissan cars would have ecstatic visions of driving along streets. The agency has also done several guerrilla efforts, including one for the Nissan Armada, in which the vehicle showed up in cities encased in plastic boxes reminiscent of emergency fire boxes, and it just wrapped up a promotion for the Pathfinder SUV with designer Mark Ecko, called Shift__unltd. Nissan has also begun its second-year sponsorship of "El Retiro Final Nissan," a five-part reality show aimed at finding North America's ultimate champion, which launched last spring on Fox Sports en Español.

Michelle Erwin, marketing communications manager for Nissan, says 16% of Nissan buyers are Latino and 10% are African-American. Seventy percent of Nissan vehicles bought by African-American consumers are Altimas. "We do very well with both groups," says Erwin, who adds that a TV ad for Altima, also via True, has been airing since January, as well as print and online advertising behind Altima. "We have been doing quite a bit in Latino and African American markets," she says.

But she adds that the point is to run thematically consistent campaigns and creative that can work across all markets "because we know that people aren't just consuming the media targeted toward them. Even in the Latino market people who watch TV in Spanish still watch 'Desperate Housewives,'" she says. "So we know the message needs to have some consistency."

For instance, she says, the clubs for the "Lost Key" campaign will target trendy areas, but they are not being targeted for patrons' ethnicity.