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Acura ads focus on technology 'beneath the surface'

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Acura ads focus on technology 'beneath the surface'

Mark Rechtin

Automotive News -- March 1, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

LOS ANGELES -- The marketing message for Honda's technology-driven Acura division has wandered somewhat since the brand's 1986 launch. But for its 2010 advertising campaign, Acura is reconnecting with its technical roots.

Of course, creating ads that focus on technology can be a challenge.

"What's in the car, beneath the surface, is difficult to get across in a TV spot," said Steve Center, American Honda Motor Co. vice president of advertising and public relations.

"We didn't want to do the typical feature-benefit ads. Acura's positioning is 'smart luxury.' We wanted to demonstrate that through technology."

The commercials, entitled "Beautiful Science," could be seen as a tip of the hat to Honda Europe's innovative "Cog" commercial, which has gotten millions of online views.

One of the U.S. spots shows a schematically exploded view of an Acura engine, noting that noise-canceling technology is used for all those moving parts.

Another shows an Acura MDX body-in-white crashing into a wall, displaying the collapsible front structure of the car and the safety cage for occupants.

"This is not technology in a commoditized sense, like entry-link and navigation systems, but from a viewpoint of how we go about solving transportation problems," Center said.

The commercials will roll out over the course of the year, highlighting the vehicles' construction materials, adaptive suspension and all-wheel drive.

The spots also mention Acura's resale value, and dealers and regional ad groups can affix deal kickers to the end.

Acura needs the retail kick. U.S. sales fell from 201,223 units in 2006 to just 105,723 last year. And some dealers are still miffed that Honda Motor Co. canceled Acura's rear-drive and V-8 engine programs, keeping the brand out of the top-tier luxury fight.

"With a lot of that lofty brand messaging, the esoteric won't work in this economic environment," Center said. "We have to be more direct and to the point about why people should consider the products and the brand."

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