Acura sees TLX campaign as start of image makeover

UPDATED: 8/11/14 12:05 pm ET

NEW YORK -- Acura’s new TLX sedan takes on the high-wire act of replacing both the TL and TSX in the brand’s lineup. But the ad campaign for it largely plays it safe, with heavy buys on TV, live sports, online video and other digital ad media.

Mike Accavitti, Acura’s brand manager, hopes the car and its big-budget campaign will help revive a brand image that has gone stale. “It’s not like we have a bad reputation that we need to overcome,” he said. “It’s just we have a nondescript reputation.”

The TLX’s ad campaign will be Acura’s biggest ever, surpassing last year’s launch campaign for the redesigned MDX, Acura’s top seller. “TLX is a brand-new nameplate,” Accavitti said. “We have to tell consumers what a TLX is, and we have to spend more.”

Here’s a look at the TLX’s campaign.

Creative: Acura wants to convey driving excitement -- tag line: “It’s that kind of thrill” -- while showing off the engineering effort that went into the car.

An early version of a 60-second spot showed to reporters last week shows shots of the TLX screaming across the desert or barreling through corners at Honda’s r&d center in Ohio, interspersed with shots of the engineering work, all set to Sid Vicious’ cover of the Frank Sinatra standard “My Way.”

Accavitti says the idea came out of a meeting between his marketing team and Acura engineers in Ohio, who mostly owned the TSX or TL. The TLX’s chief engineer told him: “We built this one for us, and we figured if it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for any auto enthusiast,” Accavitti recalls. “That’s when the light bulb went off.”

Acura has banked some 13 video clips that it can edit into shorter spots for TV and online, says Ed Beadle, senior marketing manager at Acura. The video ads will highlight the car’s sporty performance, or technologies such as its Siri Eyes Free iPhone integration or its all-wheel-drive system.

The campaign is the second crafted for Acura by Mullen, a Boston-based agency that won the Acura account last year. It also led creative on last year’s MDX launch.

Media mix: Forty percent of the TLX campaign’s media budget is earmarked for broadcast TV and online streaming video of those programs. “My Way” will run on 25 cable networks starting Sunday.

Nearly a third of the budget is being allocated to digital ads, while 21 percent will buy time on sports broadcasts, including a monthlong sponsorship of college football highlights on ESPN. The rest is a mix of print ads, out-of-home and other areas.

A major digital activation will be a video “roadblock” on Facebook planned for next month that the company estimates will reach every Facebook user. Homepage takeovers on and also are planned.

The customer: Acura is going after existing Acura sedan owners, plus so-called “defectors” who previously owned Acuras but left the brand. Conquests from other luxury makes and mainstream brands also are an objective.

Beadle says the archetypical customer is tough to define, but he said the pool skews toward men in their 30s who are well-educated and affluent.

You can reach Ryan Beene at



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