During the day, I work for a software company that parades, pushes, uses, re-uses and abuses the word “innovation” more than a politician abuses power and money. And that is really quite a lot. Why is this buzzword so hot, so in? What makes it so attractive to marketing types and power executives who eat babies for breakfast with their double-espresso machines on full boil? Other automakers like Nissan have jumped on this bandwagon as recently as yesterday, which I just commented on. Frankly, this innovation obsession has me stumped. But I can say that one car company is using more innovative ads than it used to, and I think it’s finding its advertising mojo again. It’s Acura.
If there is one brand among the Japanese automakers that has lost some luster over the last decade, it’s Acura, the upscale Honda division that used to rake in loads of money, and coincidentally make oodles of dollars for the mother-ship back in Honda City. I don’t know what their cars are all about anymore, and I tend to pay attention to these things at the expense of whatever is sitting on the stove, bubbling over. I won’t expend effort criticizing its product (no more NSX, no Integra, no rip-roaring V-8, and where is a high-revving roadster convertible that can be driven every day?).
Acura, to my mind, sort of lost their way in terms of what their message was over the past years, yet I sense a change is in the air based on what I have seen lately. We’re not talking VW imagination or Mini’s measured madness or BMW’s laser brand focus. But one thing has greatly improved over the past year or so,and it’s Acura’s focus on making clear,clean ads that actually do not misuse and misinterpret the word “innovation.” Their ads have almost become Honda-like in their simplicity, a former Honda advertising trademark. In fact, I’d say these are the modern versions of the great Honda ads of the '80s and '90s. Here are my favorite three from this latest campaign.
Acura TL Millions
Simple yet wonderful imagery, you focus on the visuals, and you ask yourself immediately what this is all about. You get hooked quickly. And then you quickly get the answer to what a million means,what it looks like and how it applies to Acura’s obsessive search for quality, even for door handles.
Acura TSX Sounds
When I saw this one, for a second I thought it was just like the famous Honda “Cog” ad in terms of how it was laid out. Lots of symmetrical, moving parts, high levels of visual detail, and one clear message. Machines make noise, but Acura engineering innovation has ways of cancelling this (although this isn’t a new technology) so you the owner can ride in peace. The ad, just like the TL Millions one, is well-paced, and just a pleasure to watch.
Acura ZDX Oil
This one was just great. It’s a visual treat because you think you’re watching modern art. It’s all about the fancy oil used in the Acura ZDX, a car whose design has been hailed as a breakthrough for Acura, despite its tremendous impracticality (I could hardly call it innovative in the respect). But when you watch the oil move around like its alive, listen to the calm voice that walks you through the commercial and then see how it relates to the Acura ZDX, you start to appreciate what a solid ad this is and reinforces the Acura message.