Mazda’s Game Changer?

Mazda North American Operations has had a dicey time elbowing for share of voice against much bigger players in the car business. Russell Wager, who joined Mazda last fall as VP of US marketing, admits there were months, like November and January, when the company didn’t advertise on US television.

RussellWagerMazda“It’s okay for us to be the little guy,” Wager said.

But like Davis vs. Goliath, Mazda has a new attitude – and a new strategy – to boost its presence not only on TV, but also in search and digital, as well as high-profile places like Times Square and a promotional tie-in with an upcoming movie.

Wager compared Mazda to MLB’s Oakland A’s, which ranked last out of 30 teams for payroll costs, but still finished 4th overall. He declined to reveal specifics of Mazda’s ad budget.

Mazda spends about $280 million a year on ads and media, well below the major car brands.

Mazda is kicking off its biggest ad campaign in 13 years in May. Themed “Game Changers,” ads will highlight pioneers of the past who figured out a way to excel in their areas of expertise. You know, like Mazda.

The first work features Olympian Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized high jumping with his new “back-first” technique that won him a Gold Medal in 1968.

MazdaFosburyPrintAd

“We are going to look at game changers- people who used courage to defy conventional wisdom,” said Harvey Marco, chief creative officer of Garage Team Mazda, the brand’s ad agency since 2010. He said other big names featured in the ads will be Mary Quaint, the mini skirt inventor, and Laird Hamilton, the big-wave surfer who dreamed up tow-in surfing, which involves a jet ski pulling the skier into monstrous curls.

There will be plenty of people who never heard of  these folks. But that’s okay since the Big Idea should overcome that.

Although the campaign breaks for the launch of the 2014 Mazda6 sedan, the new umbrella theme will spread to all models, all branding, in all messaging, including events, regional dealer advertising and sales offers.

That approach differs from how Mazda did things in the past and the uniform ad platform “will make our (ad) fund go further,” says Wager. Mazda is boosting its digital and search spending by 40% this year from 2012. Wager says the brand will reduce its reliance on TV. Although broadcast will account for the biggest chunk of the overall ad spend, at 65%, Mazda will be on television all year. Although digital will comprise 25% of all spending, the undisclosed total is 40% more than 2012 (and includes search). Print and out-of-home ads account for the remaining 10% of the budget.

Look for Mazda to takeover Yahoo’s home page with jumper Fosbury, carrying the headline “This is how he changed the game. This is how we changed the game.” (with the new Mazda6).

And from now on, Mazda ads will show only red vehicles “so they  pop off the page,” Marco said.

Mazda’s new consumer research, done over the past 5 months, and new analytics approach, will boost retail sales and reach, Wager said.

Mazda partnered with the upcoming space thriller “Star Trek Into Darkness” as part of the 6’s launch. Check out this  :30 commercial Mazda did to help promote the film

It makes sense for Mazda to team up with this sci fi flick to tout its SKYACTIV Technology that improves driving, safety and fuel economy.  Mazda has an app related to the movie that assigns 5 missions, including a trip to a Mazda dealership to take and upload a photo. Dealers will also get movie tickets to share with  service customers.

Mazda takes the “Game Changer” theme to print and out-of-home ads, like this interactive board carrying the headline “When you  Change Everything, You Change Everything.”

Mazda6adChange

I may be nitpicking, but this ad (shown) and several like it remind me an awful lot of the work BBDO Detroit did back in 1992 for the launch of the new Dodge Intrepid. “We’re Changing Everything,” was the ad theme for that campaign. Okay, that was back in 1992, so maybe I am nitpicking.

Anything that can get little Mazda more exposure is a good thing.

MAKING TRACKS: Life IS stranger than  fiction. Steve Majoros joins Cadillac as global marketing director. Majoros was a managing director at IPG’s Campbell-Ewald ad agency. C-E had been Chevrolet’s ad agency for more than 90 years and is said to be in the pitch for Cadillac’s business. What does that mean for Fallon, Caddy’s current ad shop? Bad news, probably.

MAKING TRACKS II : Word is Hyundai creative ad agency ,affiliate Innocean Worldwide Americas in Huntington Beach is close to hiring a new COO after a year-long search. Stay tuned, folks.

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn, Forbes.com and Facebook

and on Twitter @jhal2001

One response to “Mazda’s Game Changer?

  1. Yep…Mazda’s “Game Changers” sounds a lot like the Chiat/Day “Think Different” effort for Apple. Great campaigns have great DNA to draw from!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s