Mazda tucks in the high-end competition

The automaker focuses on the joy of winter driving to put itself in the same consideration set as luxury models.

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Mazda is putting luxury competitors away for the winter, touting the all wheel drive functionality of its Mazda 3 to go after a more premium audience.

In its national “#SleepingCars” campaign, the automaker shows reluctant drivers drawing slip covers over their fancier rides to tuck them in for the winter months and that, by contrast, Mazda is adapted for all seasons.

Neal Bouwmeester, director of marketing at Mazda Canada, says the first Mazda 3 launch spot in the late spring was more about visual choice between the sport model and sedan and that the brand’s all-wheel-drive (AWD) messaging was given get short-shrift because there is only so much messaging one spot can contain.

The challenge this time around, Bouwmeester says, was to tell the story of a feature benefit in an engaging way, especially one like all wheel drive, which has wide appeal among Canadians who will soon have to put up with winter driving conditions. What better way to call attention to that feature, he says, than by highlight the shortcomings of the competition?

Bouwmeester says Toyota Corolla and Honda Civics are popular competitors, but that Mazda 3′s key point of differentiation is its AWD, which gives it an opportunity to inject itself into conversations typically dominated by luxury models.

“We feel we can put ourselves up against the Audi A3 and the BMW 3 Series of the world, and we hint at that in showcasing Porsche and Jag models being put to bed in the spot,” Bouwmeester says. The tone of the ad is a bit darker than previous efforts from a brand more associated with the “Zoom Zoom” spots – it takes place at wholly at night and is accompanied by a downbeat cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” – but Bouwmeester says moving into a more premium position necessitated a more “serious” spot.

Mazda posted a 4.2% year-over-year sales decline in September, with year-to-date sales of the brand decreasing 12.5%. That’s part of an overall downturn in the Canadian automotive market, which – after multiple years of record sales – have declined for 19 straight months (save for a 0.6% climb in August). Bouwmeester says the compact car category, in particular, is continuing to slide versus compact SUV models – which continues to be a popular and crowded category – but adds that there is “more than enough segment for us to play in.”

The campaign debuted during Chainsmokers concerts in a handful of key markets, and is now rolling out nationally with a 30-second TV ad, digital display, online video and paid social.

Wunderman Thompson Canada handled creative, while Excelerator Media handled the media planning and buying.