Acura Targets 'Alpha' Driver In New Ads

Acura last night launched new ads for the MDX SUV, using the voice of actor James Spader, and a new theme line "Advance"--Acura's first tag line in nine years.

The new campaign, from agency of record RPA, targets what Acura describes as an "Independent Alpha," luxury marketing's equivalent of the early adopter of new technology.

The campaign touts the vehicle's intuitive technology and demonstrates features by showing how they connect people to their vehicles.

Mark Irwin, creative director on the brand at RPA, said the campaign, like previous work, is still "very entertaining" because it is very special effects-driven. One ad shows the vehicle on a road that is lifted, by hydraulic jacks, demonstrating MDX's all-wheel drive.

The other spot depicts the notion of the world passing one by--literally. In it, a city rushes past a guy standing on the sidewalk. When an MDX rushes by, he jumps in and catches up to the city.

Acura has always made vehicle technology--and recently in-vehicle telematics--its point of differentiation. Recent ads for its sedans have been shape-shifting examinations of how the vehicle wires the driver to the world--with the car morphing into an office, for example.



Acura reports that sales are down 7.6 percent through September, to 149,090 vehicles delivered. Wes Brown, automotive marketing consultant with the Los Angeles-based IceOlogy market research firm, said Acura's problem--at least in terms of becoming a luxury player a la Lexus or BMW--is one of transcending the past.

"The vehicles are well styled inside and they offer tremendous value. But where they struggle is getting the word out about why a consumer would want to buy them over the European competition. They are still perceived as a mid-level luxury brand."

The new campaign includes sponsorship of podcasts on National Public Radio, HDTV spots and XM Satellite Radio. TV spots will focus on sports: national broadcasts of Major League Baseball championship and World Series games, and NFL and NBA games. Cable buys are on lifestyle channels.

Spot TV buys will focus on 27 markets. According to the agency, a print effort will run in 50 publications, including The Economist, Travel + Leisure and Wired. Full-page ads will run in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Spending was not disclosed.

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