The first volley from Mazda's new ad agency, WPP Group, of London, wasn't expected until April. But a series of TV spots that hit hard on the brand's driver-focused DNA have made a surprise debut.
And the national commercials seemed to work, helping to fuel strong December sales results, Mazda's U.S. marketing boss said.
The spots, which call the CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers "the driver's alternative to chunky SUVs," began airing in mid-December. Similar commercials are running for the Mazda3 and Mazda6.
The ads try to tell consumers more explicitly that Mazda's vehicles are designed with the driver in mind, said John Abel, Mazda's U.S. marketing boss.
"What we're trying to do in this interim period is spell that out a little bit more clearly and directly than we have in the past," he said.
Mazda sold 21,479 vehicles in December, up 18 percent from last year and its third-best monthly total in 2010. Mazda sold 15,304 units in November, its worst result of 2010. For the year, Mazda sales rose 11 percent.
"It encourages us to be more explicit," Abel said of the December sales result. "A lot of times we try to tell little stories that hint at what we're about and leave the consumer to draw their own conclusion."
Last year, Mazda ended its 13-year contract with "Zoom-Zoom" creator Doner. WPP Group's new Team Mazda unit officially opened in October, but the automaker said the first major campaign wouldn't be seen until about April .
That's still the case, Abel said. He called the December ad campaign a bridge until Team Mazda rolls out a fully integrated campaign this spring.
Team Mazda's biggest focus for 2011 will be communicating Mazda's new Skyactive powertrain technology, a new design language seen on the Shinari concept car and the overall move upscale, Abel said.
"The big reason for hiring the new agency," he said, "was for taking the brand to a new place where maybe it hasn't been before in terms of consumer perception."