Bolton, Burgundy and Cheeky Buzz – Auto Marketers Set a New Tone

If you’ve seen the recent round of spots (they ran throughout the fourth quarter of 2013) for Dodge Durango featuring the fictional character Ron Burgundy, you know how good they are.  Crazy good.  (Kudos to Wieden & Kennedy.) They’re stupid funny, with an offbeat wit that perhaps only Will Ferrell could channel in this character composite, a mashup of 70-‘s into 80’s d-list celebrity relics.

Here’s just one of the many spots that were filmed (likely loosely scripted and then ad-the-hell-libbed-out-of by Ferrell) for the campaign:

What’s more intriguing, of course, is that the spots were wildly effective.  According to this article in Autoblog, Durango’s sales were up a staggering 59% in the first month of the campaign. Similarly, after three months of leadup, (the Durango spots were a marketing tie-up to promote the movie inasmuch as they were car ads,) the movie – who some have said didn’t live up to the hype – has raked in more than $108 million dollars at the box office (as of the weekend ending January 5, 2014) against a $50 million production budget.  That’s a profit, yo.  And it might have something to do with the more than 20 million views the spots have received on YouTube.

In a strange coincidence, another auto marketer (Honda) aligned with its own interesting character to help bolster holiday sales.  In the fourth quarter of 2013, Honda ran a campaign of spots under the “Happy Honda Days” theme featuring Michael Bolton, a bit of caricature himself, something of a mashup of 80’s/90’s pop stardom realism.

In the spots, the VO asks, “what does it feel like to get a great deal at Happy Honda Days?  Cue the Bolton.”  (Cheeky, right? Ri-ight?)  And then Bolton appears, singing wintry feel-good lyrics, like “Spread some cheer, the holidays are here…” and “now that the snow is falling down baby, my love is calling your name…” and the more heavy-handed “It’s a winter wonderland, and the snow is gonna blow.”

Take a look:

All these songs were written specifically for the spots…and they’re goofy, but with a deceptively catchy feel that’s very, well, Bolton.  That’s pretty neat.

But what’s really neat (and perhaps where Honda has out-cheeked Dodge in this strategy,) is the social component that’s wrapped into the spots.  Here’s how the program worked.  In late November, there was a 5-day window when people could message their friends via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Vine using a hashtag #XOXOBolton.  Here’s “The Bolton” setting the stage himself:

Then a bunch of lucky winners did indeed get personalized songs from Bolton, and THOSE were really funny too: Check one out, delivered to the difficult-to-pronounce Erdle:

So, major props to Rubin Postaer (sorry, now known as RPA) for taking a good idea and going a few really creative steps further.

In comparing these two campaigns, (Dodge and Honda,) how would you crown a winner?  Is it the quality of the idea?  The production value?  Or the reach?  Dodge and Ron Burgundy rode a wave of laughter all the way to the bank, (for both brands, it turns out.) Honda went the whole way, integrated the celebrity endorsement (and really carried the joke through) in a rich and fun social media activation.

Honda wins on extending the activation and driving engagement.

But at the end of the day, we have a job to do.  And in this inter-office smackdown, Burgundy and Durango win hands down for moving the needle way over into the profit redline.

So…who’s next on the cheeky auto endorsements?  How about Alice Cooper and Verne Troyer for Mini Cooper?  Huh?  Whaddayasay?

Just spitballing here.

4 thoughts on “Bolton, Burgundy and Cheeky Buzz – Auto Marketers Set a New Tone

  1. Joe Sacco January 10, 2014 / 4:28 pm

    Glad you chose to profile this. Crazy good Durango spots. So likeable. In fact, the Durango campaign was better than the movie… go figure. And Honda extending Bolton way into social was a good move, but I question the creative a little. I routinely heard the comment, “If I see that Michael Bolton spot one more time I’m gonna scream!” I don’t know if people understood that he was doing a parody of himself. Too many viewers, I fear, took this seriously. Perhaps I’m wrong, but my straw poll says: Burgundy/Durango, HUUUUGE winner; Bolton/Honda, not so much.


    • Nader Ashway January 10, 2014 / 7:53 pm

      Thanks, Joe. I had also heard that the Anchorman 2 movie wasn’t very good, but the numbers tell a different story. Already past 2X in earnings in just three weeks. Add international distribution, DVD sales and syndication, and that thing’s gonna top $200 million all in by Summer.

      I think you’re right about the Bolton spots – some people didn’t get the self-deprecation going on. Did you see the spot he did last year for Optimum Cable? Check it out:

      Same idea, (he’s a parody of himself,) but without the music component, it doesn’t quite live up to the Honda play.


      • jsacco99 January 10, 2014 / 7:57 pm

        Very funny. Clearly he’s making a play for the celeb value he still has left. Goog business decision and it makes him really likeable too.


  2. markkolier January 10, 2014 / 4:29 pm

    Great post Nader and I agree with your conclusion. Considering your creative bent that you highlight that the true evaluation is in sales is the key indicator that you are marketer first and foremost. I wish more creative folks were like you.


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