Acura’s racing anime series aims to draw young premium drivers

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Acura premiered an anime series at the Sundance Film Festival to promote its Type S vehicle lineup, according to a news release. The automaker is returning as a presenting sponsor of the event, which recently shifted to an all-virtual format, for the 12th consecutive year.
  • “Chiaki’s Journey” chronicles the story of Chiaki, an aspiring racer who’s mentored by her uncle Noboru and clashes with rival Erich Kang on the track. Four 60-second “episodes” are available on YouTube and appear across partner platforms Crunchyroll — an anime streaming service — Jalopnik, Gizmodo, IMDb, The Takeout, AV Club and Kotaku.
  • Developed with agency Mullen Lowe Los Angeles, the campaign has media support on TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit and Twitter, along with placements on 250 cinema screens and out-of-home channels in major U.S. markets like New York and Los Angeles. The luxury Honda brand is trying to create a bridge to a pocket of pop culture that’s seen growing traction in the mainstream, including through advertising efforts.

Dive Insight:

Acura is gunning to connect with the expanding number of consumers who watch anime, an animation medium that has long held a devoted niche but is starting to see wider interest from audiences in the U.S. and abroad. The marketer is specifically looking to draw in the next generation of premium drivers — younger people who may not engage as much with traditional media channels — with a story intended to embody the brand’s challenger positioning.

Demand for anime content at the global level jumped 118% over the past two years, per Parrot Analytics data cited in Axios, potentially reflecting how the pandemic’s streaming boom has pushed viewers to sample different genres. That surge has been accompanied by dealmaking from major media stakeholders: AMC Networks earlier this month acquired anime content and merchandising specialist Sentai Holdings, LLC.

Rather than run a one-off ad in the anime style, Acura is attempting to replicate the feel of a full-fledged series through four short videos that tell a richer narrative while integrating the brand’s Type S offerings. Those include the 2022 MDX Type S SUV, the 2022 TLX Type S sedan and the NSX Type S sports car. The 2023 Acura Integra also makes a “cameo” appearance.

“Chiaki’s Journey” features other Japanese cultural tie-ins that may resonate with consumers. The videos are soundtracked by Nemophila, a rising all-female metal band based in Tokyo. Acura is making a larger multicultural play as well. All episodes in the series have Spanish-language versions to connect with Hispanic drivers, a key market for the automaker.

The campaign falls under Acura’s “Less Talk, More Action” platform that places a focus on cinematic marketing. Other efforts under the banner include a 60-second TV spot from 2020 shot in the style of a black-and-white silent film.

“Chiaki’s Journey” joins a growing roster of branded content that takes inspiration from anime and manga comics. Hyping the return of its limited-run nacho fries last summer, Taco Bell released an anime-style ad and digital comic tie-in titled “Fry Force.” The concept referenced the mecha and kaiju genres.

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