Acura runs with Van Halen for NSX Super Bowl spot


The 30-second spot closes with "Runnin' With The Devil" at full blast -- the NSX's roaring engine harmonizing with the blistering guitar as it speeds away.
UPDATED: 1/29/16 9:22 am ET - adds details, gallery

For Acura’s Super Bowl spot, ad agency MullenLowe considered an array of songs from various genres to find the right backdrop for the NSX supercar.

Classic rock, hard rock and R&B were among the choices, Acura says. The agency says it took around four to six weeks to decide.

In the end, David Lee Roth’s potent vocals in the Van Halen classic "Runnin’ with the Devil" proved irresistible. Acura unveiled the ad today.

The artistic visuals of the opening seconds hint at a quieter affair. But then Roth’s a cappella interjections kick in as the NSX is shown, conveying some of the unbridled excitement that Acura hopes to elicit with its long-awaited supercar.

The 30-second spot closes with the rock anthem in full blast -- the NSX’s roaring engine harmonizing with the blistering guitar as it speeds away.

Acura is using the ad, slated to run in the first quarter, to emphasize its “Precision Crafted Performance” mantra. The brand is releasing a 60-second version of the spot online today, too.

Off guard

Acura brand chief Jon Ikeda, a former designer who says he’s still learning the ropes of marketing, had a clear vision for the ad from the outset. For advertising’s biggest stage, he wanted an energy and volume to match, said Mark Wenneker, chief creative officer of MullenLowe.

“The visual was supposed to be very modern and crafted and beautiful,” Wenneker said in an interview Thursday, “but the idea with the music we chose was to take these screams that were screaming at every piece and part of the car, and give people a little smile and a little bit of something they weren’t expecting to see.”

He added, “It was intentional to catch people off guard a little bit.”

This isn’t the first time the NSX has been featured in the Super Bowl. Acura ran an ad in 2012 starring Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno.

But this time, Wenneker said, Acura wanted the car to be the star.

The ad team’s search for the perfect song tossed them into uncharted territory. This is the first time Van Halen has ever released "Runnin’ with the Devil" for advertising use.

Wenneker said the band’s love of cars, and the NSX in particular, may have played a role in the decision to license the song.

The decision to use Roth’s isolated vocals was a creative call.

“A capella was a choice that we liked in a lot of music we looked at because it felt so different,” he said. “The choice became clear when we [heard] "Runnin’ with the Devil" all the way through full blast or other rock-’n’-roll music. It would kind of bleed in and wouldn’t stand out.”

Acura says the goal of the ad is to show that the NSX is “better described through raw emotion than words alone.”

‘American stage’

The brand will bolster its Super Bowl campaign by spreading the 30-second version of the ad with a new Twitter video feature that will allow people to share it with their friends and enter a sweepstakes for a VIP NSX driving experience, the company said.

In addition, Acura is launching a countdown clock today in the lead-up to the Feb. 25 debut of the NSX online configurator. Consumer can begin contacting Acura stores that day to place NSX orders as well.

The 573-horsepower car starts at $157,800 and tops out at $207,500, including destination charges. Acura plans to sell about 800 NSXs a year in the U.S.

Using the song of American rock legends was fitting for the NSX, which will be produced in Marysville, Ohio, said Leila Cesario, Acura’s national advertising manager.

“This is an American supercar. We’re putting it on an American stage,” Cesario said in an interview Thursday. “You need that full-of-energy American band that helps to bring it home.”

It’s good to be back. #AcuraNSX

Posted by Acura on Thursday, January 28, 2016

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com -- Follow Vince on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/VinceBond86

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