Can Seinfeld Help Acura Reinvent Auto Ads?

Acura NSX

Acura NSX

Jerry Seinfeld’s legendary show was “about nothing,” but his Acura ads have a very specific purpose: raising the automaker’s profile and better defining the premium Honda (NYSE:HMC) brand. Critical of the desert-driving commercials that are lost on most auto consumers, Seinfeld has become inspired and hopes to change auto ads while helping the sponsor of his car-themed web series.

In a piece by Bloomberg, Seinfeld described modern automobile commercials as “a total turnoff to the consumer,” adding the “fear-based” images of desert sands and renegade drivers had little connection to the audience watching. Acura executives believe a lack of engagement with their audience is the reason behind mediocre sales, prompting Honda to increase ad spend significantly, starting with Super Bowl commercials.

The famous Seinfeld spot celebrated the Acura NSX concept car, a reason for people to get excited about the brand. Seinfeld told Bloomberg the idea was to get people to engage with him first and then associate that feeling with the car. According to Acura sales figures, the strategy has worked so far for the automaker in 2013.

Acura sales are up a modest 4.4 percent in 2013 after dipping for several years, but competitors from German brands and Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) popular Lexus line have been faring much better. Honda executves plant to change that through advertising and other unique types of corporate sponsorship, and Seinfeld has a much-viewed web series that helped the Japanese automaker fulfill both objectives at once.

“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is the web series that consists of exactly what the title says. Seinfeld picks up David Letterman, Chris Rock, Larry David, and others in vintage cars — regardless of brand — that Seinfeld believes are a match for the episode’s guest. Mike Accavitti,  Honda’s top marketing chief, said the viewership is rising significantly since the beginning of the Acura sponsorship.

“Viewership is up 40 percent from year one to year two,” Accavitti told Bloomberg. Whether that’s a product of the show’s gaining popularity or the Acura promotion is unclear. A typical webisode follows Seinfeld engaging Chris Rock over coffee after cruising up to the shop in a stunning 1969 Lamborghini.

“Is this thing gonna take off [and fly]?” Rock asks of the Lamborghini. In the episode, Rock and Seinfeld banter about cars, people, and any topic that pops into their heads. Appropriately, it isn’t about anything specific. Yet every episode starts with a classic Acura ad, and each one celebrates car culture in general, two of Acura’s goals.

Accavitti said the inlcusion of classic cars not from the Honda portofolio was part of the package and indicative of the strategy of associating the automaker with fun car moments. More of the same is ahead from Acura and Seinfeld. The comedian appears bent on reinventing the auto ad, and Acura hopes it can give their brand a significant boost.

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