The Honda brand is one of the most innovative in the world, combining the technical know-how and reliability of its Japanese manufacturers with the marketing revolutions brought about by advertising in the West beginning in the 1950s. Without a doubt, the most successful aspect of its commercial appeal lies in three television adverts which introduced Honda cars and motorcycles to a wider audience. Here are the stories behind three of the best-remembered campaigns.

You meet the nicest people on a Honda In the 1950s, American audiences had trouble seeing the motorcycle as anything other than the ‘rebellious’ option of transport; one hardly likely to appeal as an option to families and other non-traditional riders who were picking up the pieces following the Second World War. Then, like something you’d see in Mad Men, the ad company Grey Advertising came up with the slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”. This slogan was heavily used in print ads across the western United States, and led to unprecedented success for Honda, whose hefty target of 200,000 sales for 1953 was demolished thanks in part to the TV ads which Honda ran during that year’s Oscar awards ceremony.

Cog Honda was also the first brand to make full use of non-TV options in the digital age when reaching out to prospective customers. In 2003, Honda ran a two-minute advert named simply ‘Cog’ during the breaks in selected sporting events such as the Brazilian Grand Prix and the Champions League final. Due to the advertising costs, the advert only ran in its entirety a handful of times; this didn’t stop Honda from becoming the most-searched car brand in the UK in the following 24 hours – only one brand could claim more hits in the whole month. Inspired by concepts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the board game Mouse Trap, the commercial showed a machine-like sequence of events involving parts taken from the new seventh-generation Honda Accord model.

The advert comprises only two shots stitched together in the middle, but still took four seven-hour days to get the full sequence due to all the small parts and exact details required; the two-minute shot took 606 takes to get right! Luckily for Honda – and particularly the frustrated production crew – the ad put the Japanese firm firmly back in the European public eye after five years of market decline.

The Impossible Dream From the song of the same name, which originated as the best-known song taken from a US musical about Don Quixote, came this ambitious and audacious Honda campaign. First shown on UK screens in 2005, the advertisement follows a man lip-synching to an Andy Williams version as he pilots several vintage Honda vehicles on a journey through a few of the world’s most scenic locations. The ad seems to end as the actor drives a powerboat off from the top of a waterfall – only to emerge a few bars later in a majestic Honda-branded hot air balloon to conclude his performance.

The ad formed the centrepiece of Honda’s “The Power of Dreams” campaign; a tribute to founder Soichiro Honda who dreamed of creating something in which he could himself one day fly. The “Wing” symbol of Honda pays testament to his wishes as one of the company’s flagship logos. The ad drove up even more interest in the Honda brand through the UK and Europe thanks to its positive message and innovative style.

Stephen Jury


August 9, 2012