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American Honda Motor Company, Inc., Acura Division: Leonard The Dog campaign
William Baue, Encyclopedia of Major Marketing Campaigns, Volume 1, 2000, pp. 51-54
According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Jeffry Scott in a 1993 article, the dog Leonard was the first animated character to introduce a car—the 1994 Acura Integra—but he was "not designed to be Snoopy," said art director Kevin McCarthy of Ketchum Advertising, Los Angeles, the ad agency for the American Honda Motor Company's upscale division.
According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Jeffry Scott in a 1993 article, the dog Leonard was the first animated character to introduce a car—the 1994 Acura Integra—but he was "not designed to be Snoopy," said art director Kevin McCarthy of Ketchum Advertising, Los Angeles, the ad agency for the American Honda Motor Company's upscale division. Animator Everett Peck drew Leonard with a sly look, and comedian Dennis Miller gave him a voice with an irreverent, sarcastic tone. Whereas Snoopy appealed to children and baby boomers, who were old enough to remember Snoopy from their childhood, Ketchum devised Leonard to appeal to the group that fell between these two ages, the jaded generation Xers. Automobile advertising and marketing had largely overlooked these 18-to-29-year-olds, despite the fact that they numbered 45 million and spent approximately $125 billion annually. This was mostly because the group was difficult to define cohesively and thus difficult to target. Ketchum identified one aspect that unified generation Xers—overexposure to advertising and a resulting cynicism toward it. "In this case we shared their cynicism," said Ketchum senior vice president and creative director Bill Stenton in a 1993 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article by Harry Berkowitz. "At least our dog did."The "Leonard the Dog" campaign ran simultaneously with Integra's "Hot Wheels" campaign, which targeted baby boomers. The budget for the combined "Leonard the Dog " and "Hot Wheels" campaigns amounted to $25.0 million, twice the 1992 budget of $12.5 million for the 1993 model-year Integra, although "Leonard the Dog" received the bulk of the spending. Acura's decision to split its targeting strategy resulted in part from prompting by dealers, who reported that Acura had "never found the perfect demographic fit for Integra" or for some other models. Instead of boxing the Integra into a single category, Acura decided to target two segments with different advertising. At the same time Acura was preparing to launch an overall brand campaign highlighting the idea that all of its models combined luxury with performance. The "Leonard the Dog" and "Hot Wheels" campaigns for Integra, which marketed to one audience more interested in performance (generation Xers) and another more interested in luxury (baby boomers), synthesized Acura's dual commitment to performance and prestige, thus acting as a forerunner for the brand campaign.
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