• Dec 6, 2012
In the world of advertising, it's the equivalent of the Chicago Cubs winning the pennant or a Republican carrying Massachusetts in a presidential election. American Honda Motor Company has decided to hold a review of its $700 million ad account, which has been held by Santa Monica-based RPA agency (formerly Rubin Postaer and Associates) since 1986.

That is an eternity in the ad business. And ad industry professionals who have long slathered over the prospect of handling Honda never thought it would budge from the agency. The move is clearly being pushed by Michael Accavitti, who joined Honda as vice president of national marketing operations last year after a several years at Chrysler. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that Accavitti is the first outsider to take on the role at Honda in many years.

RPA had been churning out fairly forgettable advertising for Honda and Acura for a decade, until last year

"Both the Honda and Acura brands are rolling out incredibly strong new products. In the face of a changing media landscape and a hyper-competitive marketplace, our challenge is to create dynamic marketing campaigns that connect and engage consumers with our products and our brands," said Accavitti in a statement. "The review we have initiated will lead to a strong, long-term strategic plan for our brands."

RPA had been churning out fairly forgettable advertising for Honda and Acura for a decade, until last year when the agency seemed to wake up and create two pretty high-profile, high-energy ads for the 2012 Super Bowl. The Honda ad, for the new CR-V featured actor Matthew Broderick spoofing his iconic Ferris Bueller's Day Off role. And the Acura ad, for its not-yet-produced NSX sports car featured Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno.

The timing may seem a bit odd as Honda has bounced back from last year's sales falloff due to the Japanese tsunami, and also posted its best November ever; though lots of automakers are posting best Novembers because of buyers in the Northeast rushing out with insurance checks to replace cars ruined by Hurricane Sandy.

It remains to be seen whether Honda will look at having two ad agencies, one each to represent Honda and one to handle Acura. RPA is being invited to pitch to keep the account, which it must do as the car account represents almost all of the agency's billings.

Let the Mad Men start ordering the pizza and washing down the white boards.


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  • 51 Comments
      Skicat
      • 2 Years Ago
      "And ad industry professionals who have long SLATHERED over the prospect of handling Honda ..." slath·er [slath -er] verb (used with object) 1. to spread or apply thickly: to slather butter on toast. 2. to spread something thickly on (usually followed by with ): to slather toast with butter. 3. to spend or use lavishly. Ad industry professionals might have "slobbered" or "drooled" over this business, but the never "slathered." BTW, take the $700-million figure with a 5-lb. bag of salt. Add billings are notoriously inflated in the media.
        haasebert
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Skicat
        I think the word they were looking for was "slavered": http://www.thefreedictionary.com/slavered Sounds similar to "slathered", but has a very different definition.
      postpast
      • 2 Years Ago
      The truth is that the effectiveness of advertising is unknown. The greatest example of this is billboards. 100's of billions of dollars are spent on billboards and there is absolutely no way to link them to sales. Another thing to look at is the rise of the Korea's. Did their marketing cause them to grow so quickly or was in improved design and engineering. Trying to break-down the percentage of growth due to advertising is impossible. As much as we all wish they could do more, Honda/Acura has seen modest but stable growth over the last decade; not bad considering the decade. To say that "RSA had been churning out fairly forgettable advertising" is not an insult. All advertisement is fairly forgettable, it is meant to be absorbed in your subconscious. When you look at a Honda Civic you are not suppose to think about the ad's for it but instead have some inner feeling about it (practical, etc...) Every person here has probably seen thousands of automotive ad's that they have forgotten, yet still effect the way they think.
      Cheddar
      • 2 Years Ago
      That agency was well known as "the country club" because it was the laziest shop in the business. People got there late, left early, drank during two hour lunches, etc. When the cars sold themselves in the 80's and 90's, they could get away with it. But things got more competitive in the 2000's while RPA stayed the same. It's too bad but, hey, when you're asleep at the wheel, you'll find yourself in a ditch.
        cerealeat
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Cheddar
        FYI this is all car ad agencies. We used to have lunches at the same (literal) country club as the client's execs. The entire creative team would be sitting next to the execs that had no clue they were paying for our cobb salads.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        mapoftazifosho
        • 2 Years Ago
        What are you smoking? Civic is best selling vehicle in its class CRV is best selling vehicle in its class Accord is just behind Camry in its class
          carguy1701
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          best selling !=best car
          rem
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          And in 1996, the Taurus was the best selling car in its class. Doesn't mean it was a good car, or better than the '96 Accord.
          tiguan2.0
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          Taurus sales to Hertz don't really count now do they.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 2 Years Ago
        Nothing wrong with Hondas. But Acuras are all uncompetitive forgetttable efforts.
      Brex
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd suggest taking about $50M of that and tossing it at a brand new design group.
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      The ad agency isn't Acuras problem. The products are.
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      The problem with Acura is that they are not premium cars. They are neither sporty nor luxurious in any way. I looked at an Accord coupe yesterday and it was way nicer than Acura's TSX or TL.
        pynch0n
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        Dave, not sure if you are even considering the sedan version of the new Accord, but I believe the top-trim "touring" package includes LED headlights, which might be a first in this class. (The 2014 PHEV Accord comes with them standard.) And by the way, as an owner of an 08 Acura TL Type-S, I feel your pain about current TL's unlovable "Transformer" design. I was hoping it would grow on me after a year or two, but every time I see one on the road I shake my head at the direction Acura design is going. That being said, I recently checked out the new RDX while my car was being serviced and I came away impressed. It has a clean, uncontroversial design, spacious rear seating and decent cargo room in the back for a CUV and is loaded with tech. Seems to be a step in the right direction for the brand.
        dude
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        you obviously have not been inside of a new acura.....better than infiniti by a long shot and on par with audi in terms of materials used.....just because acura doesnt want to charge their customers 5k for Xenons doesnt make them any less luxurious
          carguy1701
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dude
          Nightflight: I keep telling you you need to put the past behind you where VAG is concerned.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dude
          You are flat out a fool if you think that Acura is on par with Audi as far as material quality is concerned. You are just kidding yourself if you think that Acura is better than Infiniti. Have YOU been inside of a new M? There is a good chance you either own an Acura, or sell them.
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dude
          and somebody here owns an Audi...
          Vinuuz
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dude
          I picked up a Infiniti and I compared the equivalent Acuras. The RL doesn't have anyway near the quality of the M. The TL and G37 maybe a closer comparison in terms of interiors. But the performance and fun factor of the G37 makes the TL rather boring.
      Arturo Rios Jr.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't remember the last time I was interested in a buying a honda other than buying a used 4 cylinder lawn mower.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hondas increases in market share is a testament to its product portfolio and reliability record. The advertising has been meh for the past decade. Fit is Go was some of the worst advertising I can recall...I did recall it, but it made me think of the Fit as a clown car...
      Carma Racing
      • 2 Years Ago
      Use the money to hire a new product development and styling department. Honda has slipped badly and firing is in order.
      Bernard
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why are they advertising a car that doesn't exist?
        usa1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Bernard
        None of their existing products were exciting enough for a Superbowl ad.
      Steve Bassen
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Bueller/CR-V ad was insulting to car enthusiasts and Ferrari fans, alike.
        Gubbins
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Steve Bassen
        The ad was meant for neither--it was for the CR-V buyer who couldn't care less about driving enthusiasm or Ferraris.
          carguy1701
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Gubbins
          Yeah, but to see Matthew Broderick channeling Ferris Bueller driving a ******* CR-V was kind of a slap in the face. The Civic Si would have been a better choice.
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