One of the dumbest things to do in a commercial is overpromise. If people have been falsely led to have high expectations about a product, the truth is bound to disappoint them and that leads to a guaranteed no sale. But even though this RLX commercial is all about overpromising, in this case that might not be a bad approach. I’ll explain why, but first let’s look at the spot itself.
The commercial focuses on the morning rituals of a wealthy and stylish man who wakes up in his “luxury” bed, washes in his “luxury” shower, dries off with his “luxury” towel, puts on one of his “luxury” suits, then—enough! Stop! We get the picture! After he lattes up, he walks out the front door (doesn’t he have a luxury garage?) and beholds his new Acura RLX. He climbs aboard, closes the door with a luxury thunk, and revels in splendor so grand that it renders everything else he owns “ordinary.” To which I say, “no.” If he had gotten into his new Bentley Continental GTC or Lycan Hypersport, then I’d play along, but a $50,000 Acura is supposed to take this one-percenter hedonist to a “whole new level” of luxury, one which consists mostly of amenities that have been around in other cars for years? In his ZIP code, I’m surprised the neighbors even let him park it in front of the house overnight. So why might it make sense for Acura to make such a transparent overpromise? Because even after more than 25 years, Acura still doesn’t get respect in the luxury arena, and that’s a problem it needs to fix. Although Acura sales overall have been pretty healthy lately, the RL’s plummeted by 65 percent last year to 379 units. Yes, production was winding down, but the car’s 2011 numbers trailed those of the ZDX—which was recently granted a mercy killing—and it hadn’t sold in any significant volume for years. In this commercial, they’re not talking to people like the guy in the ad, who have a legitimate experiential frame of reference for luxury. They’re talking to people who actually think that buying the right car will magically equate them to him. They can’t afford his house and its luxury accouterments (well, maybe they can spring for the sugar), but if they get an RLX everybody will think they can. This is essentially the same strategy that Lexus is using in its 2013 LS commercial, but while Lexus uses music to accompany their shots of aspirational lifestyle icons, Acura gives a verbal shout out to each one to make sure viewers get the message, even at the risk of mocking the very things they’re trying to lionize.
So will it work? Who knows. While we acknowledge that the all-new RLX isway better than its predecessor, product goodness alone won’t win the day for Acura’s flagship model. Mike Accavitti, American Honda’s vice president of marketing, said recently, “There’s a gap between the customer perception of what Acura is, and the luxury that is in our cars. We’re going to focus our efforts on strengthening that position and closing that gap.” Mentioning the word “luxury” 12 times in a 30-second commercial is a start. And by the way, like you, I did notice that Luxuryman sleeps alone, although the head dent in the memory foam pillow next to him indicates that he had company at some point during the night. Maybe his luxury snoring scared her off. Or worse, maybe Acura couldn’t afford the luxury of hiring a full cast? Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks of the latest spots. The ad’s rating is depicted via the shift pattern at the bottom, but everyone has an opinion when it comes to advertising, so hit Backfires below and tell us what you think, too.