Editorial: If Honda can, why not others?

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With ad agencies battling a perfect storm of war, disease, cost-cutting, advertising commoditization and media clutter, Honda's new U.K. spot for its Accord, "Cog," is a refreshing reminder that the work can still be brilliant and devilishly effective.

The spot, from Wieden & Kennedy, London, is 120-seconds long, and in that respect-and that respect alone-may be marked down by the purist judges at Cannes. Nevertheless, "Cog" will surely still be in the reckoning for the Grand Prix and, more importantly, it's captured the British public's imagination, gaining press coverage galore and flooding e-mail inboxes at a rate matched by few other campaigns.

U.S. experts, including Honda's own gurus, suggest an ad like "Cog" wouldn't, even shouldn't, make it to the U.S. screen, devoid as it is of obvious statements about feature benefits. Given the conservatism in most U.S. car advertising, it probably wouldn't be used here. But shouldn't? Why ever not?

"Cog" is not just creativity for the sake of winning awards. It fits brilliantly with the elegant, educated image of Honda; it speaks to the precision engineering of Honda's car parts, and thus to the car's reliability. In less than a month, Honda's U.K. Web site has gone from being the seventh-most-visited automaker site to No. 2, and calls to its contact center have tripled. The interactive version of the ad on Sky TV prompted more requests for information than any ad ever run on the service. In short, "Cog" is doing its job of generating thousands of sales leads.

Cars hugging hairpin bends and bumping across rugged terrain, with voice-overs about incentives and warranties, are a mainstay of U.S. auto advertising. But there is a large potential upside to injecting more originality and creativity into car ads, especially when the number of models on the market has consumers baffled. Let's hope "Cog" triggers a new outbreak of creativity.

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