"We have to be careful not to overtarget. A lot of these vehicles are niche vehicles to begin with, and the advertising takes them even further into the niche," said Eric Conn, American Honda assistant vice president for national advertising.
The Pilot TV commercials will show the vehicle's capability in the desert and in snow, but only that it can handle such conditions. As much attention will be paid to the vehicle's interior amenities. One ad for the Hispanic market - airing during the World Cup soccer tournament - shows a father using the Pilot's navigation system to take a dream off-road trip, only to be brought back to commuter reality by his rambunctious daughter's soccer team.
"It won't be a Range Rover climbing over big boulders," said Bill Hagelstein, executive vice president of ad agency Rubin Postaer & Associates in Santa Monica, Calif. "There's a little balance on the rough-tough side, but we'll mostly be demonstrating the Pilot's power, size and family capabilities."
Hagelstein said the Honda advertising template, complete with a Richard Dreyfuss voice-over, has remained intact despite the Pilot being a new type of vehicle for Honda.
Honda expects a heavy presence in sports TV. Viewers can expect frequent ads during the NBA Finals and baseball playoffs, but not the World Series. Honda also is putting greater emphasis on billboard advertising.
But Honda also must work with a constrained budget and timetable as the company is introducing the franchise Accord in September and the youth-oriented Element in December.
Launching those three vehicles represents a challenge for Honda to make sure its advertising doesn't trip over itself, Conn said. "We don't want to be sending potential Accord buyers a Pilot brochure," he said.