By on May 10, 2011

Honda’s latest Civic may not have made a great impression on TTAC’s Best and Brightest, but the new compact isn’t targeting any one buyer anyway. As reports [click through for new ad videos], Honda’s new Civic campaign is all about broadening the model’s appeal… to five specific stereotypes.

The campaign features five distinct characters, each representing a different model. The Urban Woodsman, Jack, lives in the city but is at home in the woods. He likes his Hybrid for its great fuel efficiency, which comes in handy on his many trips to the great outdoors. The Zombie, Mitch, is a salesman who’s into high-tech gadgets. His Civic Sedan is loaded with options like Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and navigation system with FM Traffic. The Monster, Teeny, is a bubbly and studious college coed. Her practical nature and frugal budget align with the fuel-efficient HF model. The Ninja, Aiko, is cute, innocent and deadly. A martial-arts phenom who’s partial to red licorice and arcade games, she pairs well with the high-energy performance of the Si model. Cesar, the Champion Luchador, is somewhat of a celebrity. He’s handsome, charming and a bit vain so he, of course, appreciates the Civic Coupe’s sleek lines.

Of course, Honda never needed this kind of segmentation silliness (which reeks of the “brand central studios” that Bob Lutz rips in his new book) in order to make its Civic one of the best-selling nameplates in the US market. Meanwhile, the requisite price of this kind of “personality profiling” is that the mass market “profile” (i.e. the people who buy the majority of Civics) gets a short shrift compared to the smaller but sexier niche profiles. As a result, Honda signals that it sees the bulk of Civic buyers as “zombies,” with no distinguishing characteristics besides a vague affinity for tech toys. Compare this to the legendary tagline “you meet the nicest people on a Honda,” and you’ll begin to get a sense of how far Honda’s marketing has fallen in recent years…

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53 Comments on “Truth Versus Advertising: The Stereotype Game...”

  • avatar

    “As a result, Honda signals that it sees the bulk of Civic buyers as “zombies,” with no distinguishing characteristics besides a vague affinity for tech toys.”

    Truth in advertising!

    News flash: people who buy generic cheap compact and midsize front-wheel-drive four cylinder sedans are people who don’t really care about cars. Every automaker knows this. Those customers aren’t even going to look at this ad. This ad is for people who are considering the Si or the hybrid to laugh at the zombie suit caricature.

  • avatar

    The people who will consider an Si don’t read ads. Double fail!

  • avatar


  • avatar

    They’re stupid ads but I think they get the cars across well enough.

  • avatar

    Dumb, but the squirrel on nature boy’s shoulder is kinda funny.

  • avatar

    Well, I’m not a lollipop sucking Asian girl so I guess I can’t buy an SI.

    • 0 avatar

      Remember, for the 2012 model, the fart can comes standard.

    • 0 avatar

      I just saw the commercial for the Civic Si with the ninja for the first time. I had to hit replay on the DVR four or five times to try to figure out what the song was, I could have sworn it was ‘I’m a ninja, I’m a horny ninja’. Turns out it’s hoodie ninja, but listen for yourself:

      • 0 avatar

        +1 I thought the same thing. I finally found the title of the song and realized what the line actually was.

        Here are the lyrics:

    • 0 avatar

      Even if you were a lolipop sucking Asian girl, no one living in a world where the Subaru WRX, Mazdaspeed3, VW GTI and even the new V6 Mustang exist should be considering a Civic SI.

      Oh how the mighty have fallen. The former king of sport compacts is now almost a joke of an afterthought now, and it will be until Honda finally figures out what a turbocharger does.

    • 0 avatar

      First time I saw the Si ad, I wanted to watch Kick Ass again :-)

  • avatar

    Which image is you?

    Are you the zombie?
    Or the bloated fat college monster?
    The goofy lumberjack?
    The wrestler wearing a cape and underwear on his head?

    The ad agency blew it. They tried to do too much. They wanted to sell Honda these ads and told them that quirky and edgy was the way to go when Kia Soul’s happening hamsters were climbing the sales charts. Kia’s hamsters are cool, but these characters are embarrassing.

    Everyone knows what a Civic is. The ad agency’s boredom with Civics speaks volumes, doesn’t it? The disrespect for Civic buyers cannot be covered up with bad humor.

    What a mess.

    • 0 avatar

      Well said. I was going to suggest to Ed that he post a piece on these ads. I couldn’t believe that they portray the mainstream Civic buyer as a suit-wearing zombie, and the others aren’t much more appealing. Between the piece and this comment, my thoughts are covered.

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch

    I still cant get a Civic or Accord as a 3000-3300lb 5dr hatch with a stick…

    NO AWD and larger than a FIT.

    • 0 avatar

      The Fit is larger inside than the Civic. Heck, even in Europe, where you can get both, the Fit is still larger than the Civic hatch. About the only thing you do get with the Civic is a little more sophistication and some rear hip room.

      And since all good TTACers prefer light-and-agile to solid and sophisticated, why buy the Civic, again?

      • 0 avatar

        The Fit is a remarkable car, both in utility as well as handling. A sub-compact that has more cargo room than a mid-nineties domestic minivan that can corner almost as well as a Mini is quite the feat of engineering. But, there is a reason why folks are nostalgic for the mid-nineties Civic hatches.

        By ‘a little more sophistication’ do you mean a respectably appointed interior? Honda used to have entry-lux locked down with the Integra, and the interiors for the 4th, 5th, and 6th generation Civic hatches were quite tasteful.

        Take a careful look at the hard plastics and the absence of any meaningful differentiation within the Fit models (or Civics for that matter.)

      • 0 avatar

        More cargo volume than a minivan?

      • 0 avatar

        The Fit is a neat car, but not competitive against the Civic’s segment.

        – Hard plastic door armrests with no padding that are prone to cracking.
        – Meager power (118 hp and it weighs almost as much as a Civic)
        – Poor seat comfort (no height adjustment, limited support, limited rearward travel).
        – Compromised suspension design (no true IRS, just a twist beam in the back)
        – Poor interior build quality. Aforementioned armrest. Look around Fit message boards at all the complaints about the carpet wearing through within the first year.
        – Lower fuel economy
        – Generally less appointed interior: no locking glove box, single tripometer, no steering wheel controls (unless you spring for the nav), no moonroof, no leather option at all. It’s a neat little car, but so far as appointments go, it’s simply not competitive with the C-segment cars (or many of the new B-segment cars such as the Fiesta)

      • 0 avatar
        Acc azda atch


        I dont know what you are smoking or what cars you HAVE been in..

        The FIT is just not good enough to be DRIVEN.

        Its a B segment DIRTBOX with 12″ wheels that runs in a price lower than CIVIC with nothing good about it.. except that its cheap and has a hatch.. with no coupling.

        Its not FIT to be driven
        Its not FIT to be owned..
        And who buys these damn things.. and excepts anything above mediocre driving experience is fooling themselves.

        This is a poor car to have the Honda badge.

        My 4th gen Accord had a better interior than the Fit does.
        My 4th gen Accord could take a corner better than a FIT, without the suspension bottoming out.. and my 4th gen Accord was a respectable vehicle to drive around…

      • 0 avatar

        Good Lord, what’s with all the Fit hate?

        I’m in the Fiesta camp for crying out loud – there’s something to be said for solid and sophisticated, and the Fiesta is still good to drive if not Mazda-tossable – but even I’ll admit the Fit is an excellent car. It’s the last holdout against the general ennui that has infected the rest of Honda’s lineup.

        Yes, next to the Fiesta it’s unrefined and ungainly and next to the Mazda it’s not as much fun, but the Fit is still a fuel-efficient, reliable packaging marvel.

      • 0 avatar

        The Fit is a fine car…sporty, good on gas (if a little light in fuel tank capacity), and would be a great choice for either a second car or a primary car. It is a bit noisier inside than a Fiesta, but the Fiesta is a more of a mini luxury car anyway, and the feel is just a bit more premium than the Fit. It’s not in the Civic’s class because it’s just a bit too small body-wise, but it’s far more useful on a daily basis because of the Magic Seat and the space that creates. As far as Mr. Acc azda atch…please…get a life and STFU…please. Nothing irritates me more than people who flame off at the mouth about things that they obviously know nothing about. As far as my knowledge…well, I used to sell cars (GM, unfortunately), and being in the market for a car, I have driven more of them than I can count…including recently, the Fit. Thank you very much ;)

      • 0 avatar

        OK, week late, but feel tempted to reply:


        OK, the minivan comparison might be hyperbole.

        Then again, my fiance and I helped some friends move a couple years back. I borrowed my folks ’94 Pontiac Transport, my fiancee a ’98 Cherokee, and my friends had his early-model Fit.

        with his front seat down his car carried significantly more cumbersome crap than my girl did in her Cherokee, and nearly as much as I did in the Transport. Not a scientific experiment, but certainly was an eye opener. Particularly since while the Transport died, and the Cherokee is on the way out, the Fit will be here longer than the pyramids.

        Charming Mr. Acc azda atch

        You drive a early nineties Accord. Good for you. I was driving a 5th gen until last summer. A fine car, usually (though as proven by your response, not always) driven by sensible people.

        As for the Fit, yes given the fit and finish, a truly ironic name, but your comment “This is a poor car to have the Honda badge.” is spot on bass-akwards. It is the ONLY car fit to have the H badge. Small, utilitarian, and nimble.

        Last summer I test drove it 1/2 hour after the Mini. Dynamics, while not as tight as the Mini, was better than the base Mazda3 I drove earlier that week. Don’t know what springs you swapped out, but being very familiar with 80s-early 2000s Civics and Accords, if you’re claiming your 20-year old Accord can turn as well/tight as a new Fit, well, you’re full of it.

        Oh, and the Fit can get to 60 faster than Honda’s HALO!?! car, aka the CR-Zero. How’s that for laughs.

        Incidentally, I didn’t pick the Fit because I wanted a hot-hatch with an adult interior. After 350,000 miles collectively put on my Civic and my Accord, I went with the GTI. Having done so, I can acutely understand how pissy Honda owners can be.

        Sucks to belong in the right lane, don’t it?

  • avatar

    These ads are awful on so many levels. Civics sell themselves. Now where’s my GD 2012 hatchback?

  • avatar

    I’ve seen the ad above many times, and yes, it’s kind of silly, but everyone is trying to stand out in a very crowded field.

    Car ads are simply some of the most entertaining “programs” on TV nowadays. They have been for years. Remember the ad a few years ago that you had to log on to their website to see how it ended? Was it Mitsubishi? Nissan? That one was where they pushed a car out of a semi-trailer onto a roadway and the driver following had to avoid it. Pure fantasy.

    I posted on another thread that many years ago, a San Jose Dodge dealer had a sweet schtick sponsoring late-night movies on channel 44 in the early 1970’s. Intrigued me and a former room mate enough to visit that dealership when I visited him and spent the weekend in the Bay Area after he was assigned to a nearby air force base.

    Also, during this era, all the car dealers in the Roseville, California area pooled together and ran ads where they were all either playing cowboys riding the range on horseback, playing golf, or generally acting silly and obviously having a good time making those ads.

    Goofy car ads are certainly nothing new, they just got much more sophisticated!

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    The Korean stuffed animals are better.

  • avatar

    So Honda thinks their buyers are monsters or zombies? Wow nothing closes a sale faster then an insult.

  • avatar

    The best ad campaign Honda ever did was “We Make It Simple.” That was truth in advertising and said everything you needed to know about the cars.

  • avatar

    Honda’s always had offbeat advertising, to say the least. Whether or not it works, I don’t know – the cars have usually sold themselves.

    I saw the new sedan in a parking lot yesterday. It’s not that bad in person. It is what it is – an economy car. Honda will sell a ton of them, just like they always have. Did Honda used to sweat the small, enthusiast details more in the past? Yeah, sure. But the whole “Honda’s lost the plot” theory has been out there for a very long time. Honda’s always insisted on doing things differently, and they seem to do well in spite of some odd product decisions.

    I still say if I was in the market for a new compact, this would be my choice, at least until Mazda wipes that stupid grin off the 3’s face.

    • 0 avatar
      Acc azda atch


      You obviously havent sat in a Civic lately..

      If ya want bland and generic…
      Go check out the Corolla and or Civic, Cruze and or Caliber.

      Leave the Mazda3hatch alone.. only decent car sold on the market today.

      Besides the Focus hatch..

      • 0 avatar

        I have an ’02 LX sedan…honestly, it can’t be that much worse. In fact, I think it looks better than my dumpy car.

        And I like the Mazda3, a lot actually. But I just can’t get past that hideous smiling front fascia…totally ruins car for me. But I’m in no hurry…we’ll see how the the car looks with Mazda’s new styling language a few years down the road.

        As an ’11 Mustang owner…I’m not buying a Focus. The reviews can tell me how great Ford is until they’re blue in the face (and I really do love my Mustang), but the crap paint, indifferent fit and finish and defective Chinese transmission say otherwise. Dearborn needs to do some more work before I become a repeat customer. And the SE-trim Focus just ain’t that impressive in person.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, the Civic is boring, but it STILL looks better than that monstrosity that is the Mazda grille. Hell, I would have considered buying a 3 except that the grille constantly reminds me of a bass fishing tournament for some reason…almost scary like an evil clown face…or manga face. In that case…bland beats “interesting” every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

  • avatar

    My take is that Honda is trying (maybe too hard) to inject some life (sales, interest) into a barely facelifted model with a very stodgy image in America. At a time when Hyundai, Kia, Ford and others are attracting greater and greater attention.

    And here we are talking about it. So, point for the advertizing people (at least I think they count it as that).

  • avatar

    The Civic is a nice looking but somewhat bland vehicle that is virtually identical to the previous generation, that over the years has gotten rather bland and stogy. All the vehicles in the compact class-the Corolla, Cruze, Caliber-are rather vanilla and Honda obviously felt they needed to differentiate themselves in the field. The ad comes off to me as on the border between edgy and camp. It’s obviously aimed at the younger buyers and their affection with social media, not the older buyers.

  • avatar

    This ad’ campaign is a total miss. It might appeal to someone between the ages of 10-15, but they don’t tend to have A) money, or B) a license. As everyone else is saying it’s almost as though Honda are saying “Are you a masked Mexican who waxes your chest? Are you a troll like, overly hairy female who pretends to be pretty? Are you an office zombie? Are you a 12 year old wannabe ninja with ADHD? Are you a bearded freak who bums foxes? Then this is the car for you!”
    I thought trying to advertise a Civic to its target audience was like shooting at a barn with a 12 gauge – ie, a pretty darn easy ‘hit’. Stick some random moving image shots of a Civic on screen with ‘NEW CIVIC – BUY IT SUCKERS’ plastered all over the place with some beige, non offensive music floating over the top of it. End with ‘Honda – we used to mean something’ aaaaand Bingo – zombies walk into dealerships the length and breadth of the land and buy them all… oh wait…

  • avatar

    Hahahaha – so much wrong with these. Its like they decided to incorporate whatever they thought was cool right now – zombies, ninjas, luchadores – can’t explain what the hell they were thinking with the lumberjack and gremlin – and apply them to their brand. Viola, lost in translation! It seems like a perfect storm of brand apathy and a marketing team trying way too hard.

    Oh, and that co-ed monster needs to look into waxing.

  • avatar

    Epic fail.

    A great example of funny and cute sells – Kia Soul spokesrodents. The ad and campaign is freakin’ genius.

    Worse, by portraying the sedan driving Civic buyer as a zombie, Honda actually plays right into the hands of Kia marketing.

    You can give her this, or you can give her that…

    Do you want to be a numb, parts falling off your body, tie wearing, cubicle drone zombie, or do you want to be chillin’ on the corner in New York city with all the fly honeys and your closest homies, with ice on your fingers and your toes? Yo, I don’t have to flex no nuts, because I know I got them. Werd to ya’ mutha – look at the pretender going by in the toaster on wheels – ha ha – turn up the phat jams bro’ and get that ambient light going on them speakers.

  • avatar

    Actually I think they hit the nail on the head with the zombie . A boring golf playing , Apple product buying , blue tooth using , trendy bar patron salesman who thinks he’s the coolest driving a dull boring sedan . The only thing they missed is a whole commute filled road full of trend following zombies yakking it up on their blue tooth devices on the way to their dull jobs in their boring sedans thinking that they’re the coolest thing on the road . All the silly commercials aside gas is up around 4 bucks a gallon , all these Civics get around 40 mpg highway and boring or not Honda will sell boatloads of them . Wonder if the same ad agency did the Toyota zombie commercial ? I guess zombies are another trendy thing right now .

  • avatar

    All right, I give up. I can identify four of the five, But what exactly is the bearded pink thing?

  • avatar

    I would say a troll , but apparently it’s supposed to be a female college student monster . I take it the point of these commercials is to give goofy extreme examples of different… uh people(?) to demonstrate the ‘to each their own’ slogan . Basically they just came up with a silly theme that people will remember – for better or worse .

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    In one of the Hitchhiker books, Douglas Adams posited that an advanced civilization had put all of its marketing people on a space ship and sent them very far away. They crashed into earth and were our ancestors, which explains why things are so messed up.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    It looks like something I would have cooked up in high school study hall (circa 1995) to insult import car buyers. (Back when I bled GM.)

  • avatar

    It’s kinda goofy, maybe cute, but no worse than the Cruze old-folks-home ad and a bunch of others I can think of. I miss the car ads of the 60’s and early 70’s.

  • avatar

    Well, it does take a certain sense of offbeat humor to appreciate the ads. (Maybe you’re over analyzing it?) They just want to be all things to all people.

    It certainly is a big improvement over the Honda helpful people ad campaign which was cornier than a Midwest ethanol plant.

    Pity their cars have just been awful – bloated and fugly. (And I’m speaking as a ’97 Civic owner). Everything’s been downhill since Soichiro died…

    I may never buy another Honda again!

  • avatar

    I found the ad confusing, but I’m sure the younger set will get it. But here’s my mis-interpretation:

    The Urban Woodsman, Jack, carries wood in the roomy trunk of his Civic Hatchback. The Zombie Mitch, a traveling salesman, sells tons of stuff out of the spacious trunk of his Civic Hatchback. The Monster, a college coed who travels back and forth between home and campus, appreciates the folding rear seats which gives her even more space in her Civic Hatchback. The Ninja, who needs to blend in and be invisible, loves the inconspicuous Civic Hatchback which has a trunk she can live out of while on secret missions. The Champion Luchador has costumes galore and has won many many trophies which he stores in his trunk and views from the steeply raked rear window of his Civic Hatchback.

    Oh wait, there is no Civic Hatchback. Nevermind.

  • avatar

    Check out what happens when these ad gurus hook up with GM:

    Hip new Chevy ad.

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