Subaru Introduces Crossover Culture

by : Anthony Fontanelle

When experts say 'crossover,' they mean a vehicle that is part sport utility, part car. But Subaru wants to add spice to that notion. The automaker plans to introduce its crossover culture to the land of forbidden secrets evoking Japanese styling and themes to attract more American shoppers.

Subaru of America plans to launch a version of a small sporty model which epitomizes Japan's rich culture. The vehicle, the 2008 Impreza WRX which features improved , striking styling and accessories, will be backed by a $10 million-worth campaign.

The automaker's website and television campaign commercial for Subaru WRX has started yesterday. Subaru will promote the sport utility by invoking the history, heritage and popular culture of its home country. The campaign is inculcated with aspects of Japanese anime films as well as manga comics. Movies like "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon;" and television series like "Heroes" are integrated to the campaign.

Three commercials that are to make their debut on the Subaru Web site will put in the picture a tale of a man from a futuristic city called the "land of forbidden secrets" who is fated to become the master of a dominant jungle creature, i.e., the WRX.

"Somewhere in the jungle, the legend is reborn," said the headline of a print advertisement that depicts a dragon perched atop a mountain. The text begins, "From the East it comes, conceived in thunder, born in lightning."

Other print ads offered a story narrated in comic-book panels and dialogue balloons about a man named Hiro whose meal at a noodle shop is interrupted by the arrival of a WRX. "Prepare to meet your destiny," the ads declared.

The intended audiences for the WRX are men ages 20 to 34. "Like what's coming from Asia, and this (WRX) epitomizes that," said Timothy J. Mahoney, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Subaru of America in Cherry Hill, N.J., a division of Fuji Heavy Industries.

He added, "These are the kids who grew up playing video games," many of which were, of course, sold by Japanese companies like Nintendo and Sony. Subaru joins a lengthening list of advertisers capitalizing on the rising interest in Japan among younger American consumers.

"The thread of Japanese pop culture permeates so much of American pop culture," said John Nash, a partner at Moon City Productions in New York, the agency creating the WRX campaign. That represents another element of crossover because Moon City is the agency that creates ads for Subaru aimed at gay and lesbian consumers. It is the first time, Mahoney said, that ads from Moon City will appear in media directed at the general market.

"We want everyone to play in their own sandbox," Mahoney said, referring to the usual lines of demarcation among the Subaru agencies. "But if there's an opportunity to have a better idea, so be it. We're all working for the brand."

"Our specialty is in one area," Nash said, "but an idea's an idea. The 12 years we've worked with Subaru has given us a 360-degree view of the brand." As for the perspective that Moon City brings to the campaign, Nash said: "As guys, we love the WRX. That stuff's in our DNA." In other words, the fact that men love fast sports cars is nature, not nurture.

The three WRX commercials, each 30 seconds long, are to become available online in three stages. The commercials are to start running on television next month, during programs that will include coverage of the X Games on ESPN.