Honda consolidates digital media work

Automaker's U.S. measured media spending fell 23% in 2013

NEW YORK -- American Honda Motor Co. is consolidating its digital marketing business for both the Honda and Acura brands with a team drawn from interactive ad agency Razorfish and siblings at Publicis Groupe.

The new move consolidates digital creative and strategy, among other elements. It also brings media and digital under the same holding company.

Publicis created the group to avoid a conflict with client Ford Motor Co., according to people familiar with the matter.

WPP's VML, Meredith's MXM, Razorfish and Interpublic's RGA competed in the pitch, which began in January. 

The agencies involved declined comment or couldn't immediately be reached. Honda declined to comment.

Currently, RPA handles digital creative for Honda while Mullen and MXM handle various digital tasks for Acura. RPA will continue to handle consumer-facing digital content along with social-media support for the Honda brand. Mullen will do much of the same for Acura.

According to the Honda, Razorfish will work with both creative agencies to optimize the brand and consumer-facing websites while maintaining the independent brand characteristics of each site. Additionally, Razorfish will be responsible for both Honda and Acura owner websites and social-media support for Acura. 

After a review last year, American Honda retained RPA as its creative agency on the Honda business but shifted creative for Acura to IPG's Mullen and named Publicis Groupe's MediaVest as its new media agency for both brands. RPA had been handling all media and creative on the accounts.

The move to consolidate Honda and Acura digital originally seemed counterintuitive a year after splitting up creative and media, and only months after the separating the brands' marketing groups in-house.

This March, while the digital agency pitch was in full force, American Honda reassigned marketing boss Mike Accavitti to lead the Acura brand amid a restructuring of the automaker's North American operation. The move was part of a reorganization moving marketing and sales functions under separate divisions for the Honda and Acura brands.

Previously, American Honda separated key operations by function, rather than by brand. For example, Accavitti oversaw product planning and national marketing in his role for both Honda and Acura.

Prior to taking on the new Acura-focused role, Accavitti last year said the company was on track to boost digital spending.

"We have been shifting the mix, since my arrival, away from traditional broadcast media TV," he told Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News, following the creative and media review. "There was a heavily TV-centric marketing focus in this place when I got here. So we started to increase the amount of funds spent in digital. That will continue."

It's not clear how the organizational shift has impacted the company's digital spending plans. But the company's measured media budget certainly took a hit last year. Honda in the U.S. spent $662.3 million on measured media in 2013 -- down 23 percent from the $860.1 million it spent in 2012.

You can reach Alexandra Bruell at

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