Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

The advertiser’s rule of thumb is that animals increase ad likeability. The cute-and-cuddly from the animal tugs the viewer’s emotions to a positive ad impression.

I’m guessing that’s what Honda Civic was intending with its new “Monster” TV spot featuring a mascot-like character. Honda’s intentions may have been good, but the execution is strange, to say the least.

It’s obvious the intent was to show fun-loving friends hanging out, driving around in the Honda Civic. She may be a monster, but she just like you and me—she goes to class, goes shopping, gets photos in a booth. That part I understand.

But what does that have to do with a hairy mascot?

To understand it, you have to be aware of Honda’s campaign, “To Each Their Own,” for its five Civic models. The spots also feature a ninja, a zombie, a woodsman, and a pro-wrestler/superhero. There is one montage spot connecting all the characters and giving much-needed context. (See it here.) In effect, the message is that Honda has a Civic to match the whims and fancies of even this cast of characters . . . so therefore, you would be happy in one too.

But if you don’t see the campaign in full—in context with the other ads—the story doesn’t make sense and the viewers are lost. When a campaign message is dependent upon an initial ad to lay the foundation for the ones to come, it’s important for the first spot to create a buzz for maximum exposure and awareness. It could be that Honda did not let the initial ad build enough momentum before the remaining spots aired.

Without context, such stories float about untethered and meaningless and reaction so far has been negative, even among the Gen-Y crowd to which the campaign is directed.

So even though animals typically provide a positive impression in TV spots, it’s not looking good for this furry creature. Poor thing. She seems like the monster-next-door, someone we can relate to.