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When it comes to pricey Super Bowl ads, details matter -- like making sure that singing sheep sing like sheep would sing if sheep could sing.
So Honda and its agency RPA took time to study sheep facial muscles in the making of the automaker's 60-second Super Bowl ad, which features a flock of sheep singing Queen's "Somebody to Love." The ad for the 2017 Ridgeline pickup was shot using real sheep and a trained sheep dog. Special effects were used that "stayed true to the anatomy and natural behavior of sheep," Honda said in a statement.
Super Bowl viewers and sheep aficionados will be the ultimate judge, of course. But the ad's real test will be if it stands out amid a flock of other automakers also advertising in the game. Will Honda's sheep, for instance, outperform the two talking bears Hyundai is putting in one of its two ads?
Honda's ad, called "A New Truck to Love," will run in the third quarter. The director is Bryan Buckley, who is credited with more than 40 Super Bowl ads. The ad is meant to highlight the Ridgeline's truck-bed audio system that allows for music to be play outside the truck. But the larger goal is to generate broad awareness for the new truck in front of a massive TV audience.
The Super Bowl is "not a cheap date, but it's a terrific reach and amplification device and getting back into the midsize truck market is the perfect opportunity for a Super Bowl spot," said Tom Peyton, assistant VP of marketing for American Honda Motor Co. "So with the advent of Ridgeline coming back this spring, we want to let everyone know."
The truck -- which is upgraded from the first-generation 2005 Ridgeline -- debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year. It will hit dealerships during the first half of 2016. The launch comes as trucks and SUVs continue to power the auto market, helped in part by cheap gas.
As part of the launch campaign, Honda will run digital takeover ads on the home pages of ESPN and MSN on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8. A more formal campaign will run later this year touting the truck's various features once the truck hits dealers in the spring, Mr. Peyton said.
Honda was last in the Super Bowl in 2014, when it used a humorous tone to promote safety in an ad starring Bruce Willis and Fred Armisen. For the 2012 Super Bowl, Honda used Matthew Broderick in a Ferris Bueller-themed spot. While Honda bypassed the celebrity route this year, by going with animated animals the brand stuck with another tried-and-true Super Bowl formula.
Budweiser has "done pretty well with puppies and horses," Mr. Peyton quipped. So "if they can do it with puppies and horses why not us with a few sheep and a sheep dog, and a big piece of music, I might add. That's a fabulous song from Queen."