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Honda hopes to rev up female buyers with big Acura ad campaign

Bloomberg

Honda Motor Co. is targeting female drivers for its redesigned 2014 Acura MDX sport wagon with the luxury brand’s most expensive advertising campaign yet.

Using the slogan “Made for Mankind,” a female narrates the moody ads showing women hiking a mountain ridge, dancing and interacting with a robot. The commercial debuted during the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals this month while the full campaign starts July 7, Honda said.

The company is betting the ads will boost Acura sales that have fallen 25 percent in the U.S. from a peak of 209,610 in 2005. Honda’s luxury marque is also promoting a new RLX sedan and the NSX, a sports car priced above $100,000. With the new MDX, Acura said it’s trying to make an emotional appeal to female luxury-car buyers.

“Luxury is so focused on a very sort of stereotypical, 40-year-old wealthy male,” Gary Robinson, advertising manager for Honda’s Acura luxury line, said Thursday in Detroit at a briefing on the new MDX. “Going forward, certainly in our country, that is not going to be anybody’s majority anymore. So there’s this opportunity to talk to somebody different.”

Honda is hoping to imbue Acura with the same success it has found with its mainstream model line, which includes the Accord sedan, the second-hottest car in the U.S. this year.

Going after female buyers for the MDX makes sense, said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at auto researcher Edmunds.com.

“Moms drive the MDX; it’s sort of a minivan that’s not a minivan,” Krebs said. “Why not appeal to the female audience? Not many automakers do that.”

Robinson said the MDX ad campaign is the costliest ever for Acura. He declined to reveal how much Honda is spending on it. He said it’s more than twice as much as Acura’s campaign last year to introduce the redesigned RDX model. And he said the cost of the MDX campaign is “not too far off” what Honda spends on its bread-and-butter Accord model.

“Our brand sort of struggles in terms of volume,” Robinson said of Acura. “This is our most important vehicle in a lot of ways and we can’t get it wrong.”

Honda set a goal for this year of topping its best-ever U.S. volume of 1.55 million Honda- and Acura-brand cars and light trucks, reached in 2007. The company is counting on the third-generation MDX and new RLX flagship sedan to reach the target. Acura plans to sell 60,000 MDX models a year, Robinson said.