Honda managed to drive its way in to the plot of Fox’s musical drama, “Star,” but the network is taking the advertiser along for an extra mile.
Viewers of recent episodes of the drama have watched as the three lead characters, played by Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny and Brittany O’Grady, vied to win time on the fabled “Honda Stage” at a fictional Atlanta music festival. As things turn out, that venue has a real-life counterpart: a Honda promotional program that features live music performances that are distributed in digital fashion. There’s also a digital component: Honda sponsors an eight-part digital-video series, “Making A Dream,” and has featured “Star” co-creator and executive producer Lee Daniels in an episode of a separate streaming effort, “Uncharted.”
“Consumers are very smart, and they know when something is authentic, and that stands out much more so than just running our spot adjacent to programming,” said Phil Hruska, manager of media strategy for American Honda, in an interview. Honda will mount a musical performance by the three singing actresses in Los Angeles on March 14.
Honda’s Hruska says the company, which has also placed Honda or Acura vehicles in places like HGTV or AMCs’ “Better Call Saul,” has also worked to bring its association with was inspired by recent work Pepsi did in another Lee Daniels-produced Fox series, “Empire.” In late 2015, Pepsi arranged to have its flagship soda featured in a three-party story arc in the series, with the tale’s culmination arriving in a single-commercial ad break for Pepsi featuring characters from the show.
“We really liked what Pepsi did,” said the executive. In talks held during the TV industry’s annual “upfront,” Honda found Fox would be putting a significant amount of support behind “Star,” and decided to link itself to the program, Hruska said.
Advertisers are dabbling in more of this sort of technique, particularly as TV viewers migrate to new video venues that allow for ads to be skipped or ad loads to be truncated. By weaving products into the programs in a unique way, advertisers hopes to still connect with crowds and then see their in-show appearances gain added traction when people stream or binge-watch episodes at a later date and via social-media outreach.
Fox is eager to demonstrate to marketers that it can devise broad partnerships that traverse several media venues, such as TV and streaming video. The “Star” partnership might offer a signal of what the network can do in the months leading up to TV’s annual “upfront” market, when TV networks vie to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season.