Honda tunes into Civic Nation via anthem mix-off

The brand has created a new platform where urban Civic owners can mix and upload beats from tracks developed by Saukrates for a chance at on-air and online stardom.

Honda is rallying its peeps around a major Civic Nation mix-off in an effort to re-energize its Civic brand with younger demos. Leveraging the ‘United We Drive’ campaign, which was first launched by Honda four years ago, the latest national program has a new spin – literally – by inviting Civic fans to create an ‘Anthem for the Nation’ on a newly created sound track mixer from samples developed by local hip hop celeb Saukrates.

With media buys helmed by the brand’s long-time agency PHD, and creative helmed by Toronto-based Grip, the new campaign spans TV, online, radio and out-of-home elements all designed to drive its target 18- to 34-year-old demo to the microsite. There, a mixer complete with a timeline scrubber and sync pads invites users to create a 30-second track from a choice of categories – Electronica, Hip Hop or Electro Pop.

The mixer engages users by allowing them to pull in different loops of instruments – percussion, organ, bass and strings – before publishing them to the site to garner votes. The anthem with top votes from the Civic Nation mix-off wins the prize: airing for two weeks as the intro to DJ megastar Starting from Scratch’s show on the Traffic Flow MixShow on Flow 93.5 – a radio station with a highly urban and multicultural demo.

‘Scratch is probably the most famous DJ in Canada,’ Ravi Dindayal, director, interactive at Grip tells MiC. ‘He has a very diverse audience and Civic is a very multicultural brand. We thought that the show was big enough to create a strong enough incentive.’

To help users gain more votes (and tip off the viral aspect of the contest), Grip has also created a piece of player code that acts like an ad to the track, available on the microsite, that users can cut and post to their blog, on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Over 250 songs have been created over the past three weeks, and the site has received over 30,000 unique hits according to Google Analytics. ‘We tried to build as many social hooks as possible,’ notes Dindayal.

‘The Civic tuner culture is very much into music,’ says Dindayal. ‘You pimp your ride by adding big speakers in your car, for example. This is just another derivative of that whole culture.’ The 30-sec TV spot features young drivers trying to find the right song on their radio while cruising through the night, using music that echoes those found on the microsite mixer; a 15-second cut from that spot is also being used as the pre-roll ad online across Sympatico, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, MTV, Astral and Glassbox networks, also pushing users to the Civic Nation mix-off microsite. Site takeover sponsorship deals were negotiated with Yahoo’s music blog, a first in Canada.

‘Our typical mix of major portals and auto sites were employed to drive awareness especially against those in the market for a new car, while also utilizing music channels that skewed younger and whose users would find the mixer appealing and spend some time with it,’ Ryan Gilroy, account manager at PHD tells MiC.

Outdoor, lenticular murals and electroluminescent ads through Newad and Zoom Media have also been secured in key markets, bars and restaurants across Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton, and will be rolling out next week. On radio, media buys are on NRG in Montreal, The Bounce in Edmonton and Flow 93.5 in Toronto, and 10-second throws have also been secured during DJ Starting From Scratch’s show.

‘From a strategic standpoint where we’re looking to place ads is younger than our normal Honda demographic,’ Gilroy says. ‘So we looked to sites and our OOH and TV, and kept it very urban, because we figured that’s what would have the most appeal. ‘ Gilroy notes that Toronto is a high priority too because it’s Starting From Scratch’s home market, so the prizing would resonate the most within this market.

A second phase to the campaign, which launches early next month and runs for six weeks, features a refresh of votes, this time for a chance to win cross-Internet exposure. Top voted tracks would be played on flash banners across the Internet, streaming from the Honda microsite.

‘Civic owners are high creators of content – they don’t stand on the sidelines,’ says Dindayal, ’and I think it’s going to eventually become expected for the brand to be involved and have conversations, and that’s really what we’re doing. We’re taking baby steps to become part of the conversation.’

Dindayal tells MiC the campaign’s third phase, which just got the green light, features a larger social community-based site and culminates in the creation of a full Civic Nation anthem.