While the Honda name was undeniably built upon reliable and affordable motorcycles and cars, along with a number of other goods (ie: generators, lawn mowers, etc), clever marketing has certainly played a major role in the companies long-term success. From quirky, chuckle-inducing ads, to downright ingenious bits packed with technological mind-blowers, many of the advertisements have become legendary and end up being shared by countless fans. Here's a quick glance at a few of my personal favorites:
The Cog commercial
This particular commercial is special to a number of enthusiasts from the 2000s. Long before the term "viral" really meant anything to most car fiends, this video was posted, reposted, then posted even more on every automotive enthusiast forum on the web when it was introduced in 2003. Keep in mind this was before the boom of social media, and gearheads flocked to forums to chat, argue, and share. Honda-Tech's General Discussion sub-forum became so inundated with Cog commercial posts that the admins actually threatened to ban anyone reposting the video as it had already been seen, talked about, and picked apart for weeks before those living under a rock decided to share what they thought was the latest and greatest.
Produced by the Wieden & Kennedy ad agency, the commercial only uses CGI for one portion, the rest is completely free of any tricks or post processing cover ups. Contrary to popular Internet lore, there weren't over 600 takes involved, in fact, months of testing and calculation led to a pair of single takes. That is, the first half of the commercial is one take, and the second half is another take with both being stitched together for continuity. This was done due to the fact that there wasn't a studio in Paris large enough to house a single take.
Not surprisingly, the commercial was nominated for ad of the decade, but in the end, Honda's Cog commercial lost....to another Honda commercial. The very strange, some would say drug-induced "Grrr" diesel advertisement took home top honors. Here's a look:
This video, also scripted and outlined by Widen & Kennedy, involves plenty of supernatural visuals and intricate processing. The ad covers 65 years of Honda engineering by highlighting some of the most memorable vehicles and tools from the company's past, present, and future. That includes their motorcycle line, the current CR-V, even a glance at the upcoming NSX, and as Honda puts it, "celebrates the curiosity of Honda engineers."
Shot using the mouthwatering Red-Epic digital juggernaut, this 2-minute piece features a pair of real hands handling custom created Honda goods that are exact replicas of the real thing - all the way down to the number of screws in the handle of the leaf blower.
Though it was never released in the U.S., this Honda commercial featuring British actor Simon Paisley Day, is one of my all time favorites. The idea of the ad comes, once again, from Wieden and Kennedy of London (these guys are just that good), and follows Day as he pilots a number of classic Honda vehicles, including an S600, a gorgeous RC143 motorcycle, and an NSX-R to the tune of "Impossible Dream" performed by Andy Williams.
While the original version was 2-minutes long, there was an English version which tacked on an additional 30 seconds and includes a Honda jet and the CR-Z. That version includes a haunting line voice over at the end; "what good is dreaming it, if you don't actually do it?" That version can be seen here:
CR-V with Matthew Broderick
Honda's ad execs are no strangers to bringing in well-known talent to help push their vehicles. In fact, Honda of Japan, specifically in the 80s and 90s, relied heavily upon actors like Michael J. Fox, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney to boost sales via Japanese ad campaigns. For the 2012 Super Bowl, Matthew Broderick not only filled the celebrity spot, he also revised his infamous role as 1986's Ferris Bueller. Under the direction of Todd Phillips (of Hangover fame), Broderick's CR-V commercial emulates the original movie, albeit in short form. An ad teaser was released to YouTube about a week prior to the big game, and the 30-second ad on game day ran a mind-blowing 3.5million dollars!
Transactions (the new NSX) Seinfeld
Another expensive 2012 Super Bowl ad from Honda focused on Jerry Seinfeld obsessed with being the first to purchase the upcoming NSX. While automotive media bashed Honda for producing a commercial about a car that wasn't expected to be available until 2015, I found it hilarious. A Seinfeld fan at heart, I was excited to see Seinfeld stepping away from Porsche for a moment to help push the upcoming supercar. The fact that he included the "Soup Nazi" in the bit made it even better.
Rev-happy NSX Super GT500
This commercial was released in Japan and features the much anticipated NSX Super GT500 on the dyno. Considerably bulked-up by way of wide body aero, a distinct rear wing, and enough louvers and canards to piss off even the most open-minded domestic car owner, the ad features no words, no music, no celebrities, just the sweet melody of a boosted, 2.0L direct-injection powerplant (required by JAF regulations to compete). Watch it, then go ahead and watch it again, but be sure to turn the speakers up!