The high-performance Integra Type S, part of Acura’s bestselling Integra lineup, is an even bigger hit online than in dealers’ showrooms. It’s a star of Acura’s wildly popular animated web series, “Chiaki’s Journey,” now in its second season.
As of June, the first season (four episodes that ran in 2022) has been viewed nearly 280 million times. It has far exceeded expectations in connecting with younger premium car buyers, lifting consideration metrics and boosting sales. That season was also awarded a Gold Effie and named a Grand Effie Contender at the U.S. Effie Awards.
The campaign was created in partnership with creative agency MullenLowe and London’s The Line animation studio.
Extending the series to a second season
This spring, the second season of “Chiaki’s Journey” launched in order to build on the momentum and add to the saga established in Season One. Produced in a slick anime style, with an original rock theme song, the show follows a young woman seeking to fulfill her father’s legacy as a legendary auto racer. With each episode, the audience learns more about Chiaki’s special skills and about the prominence of her father, who passed away before the story began.
Anime and car fans can see the new episodes on YouTube. The series is also promoted on digital car and lifestyle properties, social media, streaming and outdoor in key U.S. markets.
Assembling a customized web series to attract a new audience
The Acura marketing team all shared a personal interest in Japanese-style anime films. They also saw that anime was experiencing a resurgence, especially among younger consumers. Creating an anime series around Acura seemed to be a way to bring in new customers, although no one expected “Chiaki’s Journey” to become as big as it did.
“We went into this really not knowing what to expect, but we were huge anime fans and we went into it with a strategy,” said Meliza Humphrey, senior manager of Acura Marketing. “We didn’t know what the response was going to be, but our strategy was that anime was coming back into pop culture — it was a big thing. We knew in the past we’d done campaigns resonating well with car culture and the Acura culture.”
The series includes fast-paced race sequences as well as scenes where the characters work on cars in the garage to prepare for future races. As a result, casual anime fans and car enthusiasts alike find something to latch onto, with plenty of opportunities for Acura to weave the Type S into the narrative.
“We’re a Japanese brand and we’re a performance brand,” said Humphrey. “We wanted to include the Type S models and bring an authentic story to our fans. So we started from there.”
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Finding and engaging the right customers with content
“Chiaki’s Journey” is tailored for social buzz. That’s the result of Acura’s marketing team’s many ideas for making episodes meaningful to the car maker’s audience and car enthusiasts more broadly.
“If you pause in [the series character Uncle] Noboru’s garage, all the historic parts about racing, garages, and the Acura tradition — a car enthusiast would know all the little nuggets and Easter eggs we put in there,” said Humphrey. “So it’s a true collaboration between us, MullenLowe and The Line to make all these things come to life.”
She added, “We know who we’re trying to attract to the brand and when we create a campaign, who that’s going to resonate with. We also have our media partners who find the right digital partners and do the targeting for us to reach that audience.”
Additionally, Acura uses a social listening tool and has a social analytics partner engaging the right customers on social.
Email and the buyer’s digital journey
“We want to look at views but also people who are sharing, as an extension of engagement,” said Humphrey. “The ultimate goal is to drive people to our website so that they can learn more.”
On the website, customers can build their own Integra virtually and connect with local dealers to make a purchase or reserve a new model if it isn’t yet available.
“We have pride in how we manage our customer database and how clean we keep the data,” Humphrey explained. “Within the database, we were able to identify customers and send them an email campaign talking about how Type S was coming, and teased in the anime series.”
Live events and out-of-home
To build buzz around Integra Type S cars and the second season of “Chiaki’s Journey,” Acura installed a real-life recreation of Uncle Noboru’s garage, featured in the series, at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach event in the spring.
Outdoor ads in select markets also were used to signal to fans that another season was underway. Acura made a big splash in Times Square with a Season 2 ad in 3D.
“Out-of-home was another big extension for the campaign,” said Humphrey. “Our out-of-home was really placed strategically in LA, New York’s Times Square and also in Miami during the F1 season.”
In this way, motorsports and Acura fans can see an engaging series begin to take a new life in the physical world around them. No plans have been made just yet for where the series goes next.
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