Monday, February 04, 2008

Battle Of The Epic Car Ads

Honda 'Problem Playground' from W&K London...



...utterly spanks the pants off Ford's 'Beautifully Arranged' commercial for the new Focus.



First of all, Problem Playground has a great piece of thinking at its heart: the original and rather resonant truth that a job you enjoy doesn't feel like work.

And a truth is always persuasive - I do now actually believe that Honda engineers enjoy solving engineering problems (even though rationally I know these are not the real engineers in the ad but just interesting-looking men with beards).

Meanwhile, the Ford ad contains no 'thinking' at all; it's based purely on a pun - "beautifully arranged". And as this is just a claim rather than a truth, it isn't believable or persuasive.

Then the executions are worlds (or perhaps generations) apart. Honda is fresh, fun, quirky and modern. The Ford ad could have been shot in 1957.

Also one ad is honest and the other isn't. The Honda promises a problem playground and it delivers a problem playground. It's 100% quirky fun out there in that car-park. The Ford ad promises beauty but delivers ugliness. Giselle Bundchen is beautiful. The paintings of Cezanne are beautiful. This Ford ad is not beautiful.

Even the music in the Ford ad is dull as dishwater. Whereas Honda's is ace. So good, in fact, that it may force me to reappraise my allergy to modern jazz.

Perhaps slagging off Ford is too easy. Ditto praising Wieden & Kennedy.

And yet, the sheer size of the gulf between them does tell us something, don't you think?

37 comments:

Waldemar said...

Agreed. We think what Ford has done is years behind; a mellowed down less truthful version of Honda's choir.

We love Honda's strategy, it's genius. We think probably the best bit of thinking for the brand thus far. Relevant & Fresh. A great expression of Power of dreams.

Oh... and we the reference to another ad (cog)is a nice bit.

English Tim said...

Quick geek moment: the music in the Honda ad is a track from 'The Life Aquatic' called 'Ping Island' by Mark Mothersbuaugh. It's a cracker. Really suits it.

Mr Crimson said...

The trouble is, everyone recognizes that music, strictly as Wes Anderson's style. The ad therefore feels borrowed.

Pluck out something new from the frankly, overwhelming selection of music out there.

Music aside... I give Honda a thumbs up for this.

The golden oracle of truth said...

It's just a shame that 'The Life Aquatic' was a dismal pile of shit. Like both those ads.

How much truth is in Choir, Waldemar? Our car's noises can be made with a human mouth? WTF? And the sound of water dripping on a windshield? That sounds the same on every car.

The emperor's clothes are off, people. Choir is nonsense and Wes Anderson is overrated (OK, Rushmore was cool but The Royal Tenenbaums was shite.)

Anonymous said...

I actually think the cog reference is a little self-indulgent.

Anonymous said...

ads are shit nowadays aren't they.

golden oracle - is that you Mr B?

f.m. said...

i find in honda communication a perfect execution of strategy.

and i like "quirky" in a motor company´s ad.

Roy said...

Though I prefer the Honda ad to the Ford, I cant help but feel everyone is making the same kind of ad. There are disturbing elements in both that remind me of other "big" ads of recent past. Have we run out of ideas?

neil christie said...

The interesting thing about the Honda campaign is that now every time we release another chunk of work we get one bunch of people who say, 'They've lost it now. This one is rubbish.' And simultaneously, another group says, 'This is the best thing they've done yet.' Which is probably the sort of reaction we should be hoping for, rather than generalised bland acceptance, which is all most campaigns aim for. Of course, it doesn't really matter what people who work in advertising think. The key thing is whether we can provoke a similar sort of debate amongst car buyers. As far as this one goes, that remains to be seen.

Gatsby said...

I genuinely think that the Ford ad does not differentiate the brand in any way from its competitors. Could we not deconstruct a skoda and create an equally effective orchastra? Does that mean the Skoda is beautifully arranged? Perhaps we should create something that looks like a bunch of flowers, all made from car parts next- The same pun would be equally uninspiring there. We surely need to say something about a brand that tells consumers something new about it; something that is going to mould opinion, and change their attitude. Will the ford ad do this? I fear not...

Anonymous said...

Honda making better ads than Ford. Not exactly a news flash, is it? The fact that you're even comparing them is probably a good step for the Ford folks.

As for the Honda ad, who knows. Someone saw Skoda 'cake,' thought it was rather good, and decided to do one of their own.

Anonymous said...

the good thing is honda feels liberated from the conventions of traditional tv ad making. that's undeniably refreshing. they have transcended VW's product feature and punchline thing.

i wish it were more documentary like. feels like they should take advantage of the success of their advertising and show us they REALLY mean it.

hard sell said...

Ford is 'pony' (for you rob) & Honda rocks.

Anonymous said...

Ford ads are always kack. This one tries too hard to win awards and ends up the bastard son of Sony Walkman and Choir. The Honda one isn't great either. If you take away all the gloss and the big budget, you've got just another derivative ad that's a mish-mash of Skoda, Orange, Egg and Sony. Not saying I could do any better, but I'm sick of the fawning attitude to Honda (perfectly illustrated by your very enjoyable blog Scamp).

Stan Lee said...

Cog was timeless. The idea was left to speak for itself. The playground ad is too of its time. All those quick cuts, fast forwards etc are the same devices used in many current day ads.

As for Ford, it would have been better if they'd dismantled the car, then played the music. The pun at the end is appalling.

Too be honest, neither of these ads would make me buy a car. They both feel cold and lacking in emotion.

]-[appy Thought said...

Any Ford ad that doesn't feature that fucking DogBot is a winner for me.

That said, the whole Honda as is constantly reminiscent for me, I've seen art made from rubic's cubes on the internet and the puzzle building a car was too soon for it not to remind me of Skoda's cake. That said I agree with Scamp that at least it communicates something about the brand and I do now see Honda as a progressive car company.

Rob Mortimer said...

W+K are still making 'big' ads. But what they show here is just why big ads became so popular.

The ford ad is creative first thought second, whereas you feel the thought tied up in the whole of the Honda ad.

It's not another Cog or Grr, but it's still ahead of the game; if no longer lapping it.

mm said...

Both are pointless ads saying absolutely nothing relevant or new. And neither are interesting.

Honda looks like an ad for Orange Juice/Mobiles and the Ford ad, well, at least it feels like a Ford ad.

Frighteningly, both are ashamed of their product as neither have anything interesting to say about an actual car.

Who gives a tit about people enjoying solving problems and I hate classical music.

Neither fucking brands give a shit about what it is important to the average consumer otherwise they'd try tackling some of the real issues drivers face. Only then will they have something relevant and truthful to say.

Ironically, I think both brands are as lost as each other. One doesn't know who it's targeting and what it actually is. The other has simply forgotten what it is.

Wrong Side Of The Tracks said...

I'm with 'golden oracle...' and 'mm' here. Neither ad has made me think any differently about the product they're advertising or given me any new or interesting information or insight. They're just creative puffery. The Honda ad is some vague/bland message about solving problems or something - without any context or sense of 'why I should give a shit'. The ford ad is, frankly, embarrassing.

Rob Mortimer said...

Is there not a difference in terms of what they say because the Honda ad is part of a series; and whilst this ad may not say much on its own it fits in nicely with the rest of the series.

But the Ford ad is on its own, and still fails to say anything; despite the nice enough creative idea in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

which artist did they "creatively" steal the rubiks cube idea from?

Anonymous said...

The Honda ad actually makes a little bit of me die inside.

The brand that made me proud to be in advertising, the company that blew the UK's minds with 'Cog' and 'Grrr' have just blown their annual budget on recreating 'Cake' by Skoda. Only with less surprise, charm and whit and more convoluted nonsense.

rjhayter said...

Honda's is better, but neither of them is as good as previous Honda work.

Mike D. said...

From Neil Christie (above):

"The interesting thing about the Honda campaign is that now every time we release another chunk of work we get one bunch of people who say, 'They've lost it now. This one is rubbish.' And simultaneously, another group says, 'This is the best thing they've done yet.' Which is probably the sort of reaction we should be hoping for, rather than generalised bland acceptance, which is all most campaigns aim for."

Neil, what you should be aiming for is the joyous rapture that greated Cog, Grrr and Impossible Dream. What you seem to be trying to deflect is the uncomfortable truth that your campaign has gone from the top of the top to A.N.Other decent piece of work. This ad has no genuine innovation, either conceptually nor executionally and I'm afraid you're going to have to file it with Hondamentalism as an honourable failure.

BY the way, regarding the comments of a couple of posts back, your blog is not tedious beyond belief, but check out your recent post about getting a masseur in. If you think anyone wants to know that a massage is relaxing, think again. Fewer posts like that, please. You must have something better to do.

Farqueson - Bagration said...

All advertising is subjective. No matter how briliant your ad is someone won't like it. And vice versa.
That's why people making rules about it is shit.
And why people arguing about whether an ad is good or not is a waste of cranial exertion. I suppose it's fun though, keeps awards juries busy, and makes us think we are all doing something useful.

Rachel Clarke said...

I like the ad and the website that goes with it. Unfortunately it reminds me of a management team building day from hell, when they make you go outside and solve problems, wear blindfolds and do silly things. Pretty sure it's not supposed to do that ;)

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs to quit their crying. This is a hell of a television commercial. The title alone - 'problem playground' - is better and more insightful than most anything out there right now.

jamesgordonmacIntosh said...

Not just because I'm feeling contrary ... I liked the Ford work.

Apart from anything else, the campaign has got about as much buzz as the Cog stuff did when first it hit our screens - or indeed as Skoda's Cake got.

And that buzz has been across The Sun, the Mail, Sky News, Heat and the other consumer glossies (once you factor in the adfunded pop promo that goes with it).

As a piece of work that has got people talking about a product, it's doing pretty well, on balance.

Okay, Okay, we can debate the creative merits (and I guess I'm not really talking about those), but when it comes down to it, the ad has created a lot of buzz, engaged a lot of people and - with Alesha Dixon in tow - engaged a lot more people with the brand than will a bunch of boffins demonstrating how much they like problems.

Does anyone bar a relatively small number of drivers (today at least) really care a toss that there are a bunch of scientists that enjoy playing with Rubik's cubes and making zero-emission motors?

As for Ford ... well, strategically, "beautifully arranged" is no more or less meaningful than "full of lovely stuff". And by and large, we all got terribly excited about that once upon a time.

But the fact is that it has got out to a lot more people and suggested that Ford is at least willing to be interesting again - like I say, if not with the ad, at least by creating a branded music video.

Dunno, somehow I think we should be looking at ads on their own merits - rather than trying to compare them with other "big" commercials.

And on that basis, the Ford work - and the campaign that sits around it - has done rather well.

Now, I shall get my coat and hide ...

Scamp said...

I suggest you run and then hide

Chris Reed said...

But will either of them directly influence the purchasing decisions of their target audience?

Strikes me that big budget car ads can only last so long with the rise of social media.

If a good friend tells me their car is great/shit I'm much more likely to believe them than a TV spot.

But I do like the Honda one...

Anonymous said...

Neil Buchanan's Art Attack comes to mind for Honda. Bet the creatives loved that when they were kids, maybe they still are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUvkRw-jf-4&feature=related

Anonymous said...

If the instruments actually work and play the soundtrack we hear on the commercial then i think it's one hell of an achievement.
Honda reminds me of Skoda cake, only sped up, there's nothing original there.
But to compare them is unfair. Honda is one unique brand and has done the worst ad for a long time, this is probably the best Ford ad since Puma.
FWIW

Cedric said...

Just came across the new Audi ad, and it seems that it is surfing on the same wave as the Honda and Skoda TVC when people collaborate to create a new kind of car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxAV2WEUXt8

Anonymous said...

Noam Murro seems to have got quite excited by the Ford film (he gave an interview on boardsmag.com) and I have to say that whilst it's not the greatest ad I've seen it's certainly a lot better than the stick it's getting. It turns out that they've genuinely made instruments purely out of car parts (bar a few strings), which says to me that the new Focus isn't made out of plastic and tat. And I think that the creative team have worked wonders with the dreaded 'beautiful looking car' brief. It's also a hell of a lot more interesting to create instruments that can be played at motorshows, used in music videos or fucked about with on the web than it is to make yet another youtube inspired 2 minute film.
I think that the Honda ad simply suffers by comparison to its forefathers, but it's still better than most things out there.

Anonymous said...

When was the last time a Ford ad, or even an ad from the dreaded Ogilvy, got this much attention. It's got nearly 100,000 hits on youtube, has been given 4.5 stars so it must be doing something right. And what the fuck is Noam Murro doing directing an Ogilvy Ford ad. He must have seen something in the idea. As it is I think it makes a nice change to see something that isn't done in a docu stylee and hasn't been lifted from youtube. And as a creative that has been on the receiving end of a 'this car is so good looking' brief it's good to see that no-one turns their had in mock admiration stroke desire at the glistening metal bollocks.
By the way, like your Levis ads. Fuck all like wonderbra.

Anonymous said...

Just read campaign and decided to look up the new Ford ad on the web after Ben Priest's little outburst. Cock by the way. I feel a bit sorry for the creatives who worked on this. They've come up with an interesting idea, managed to bag a top director and then made the best Ford ad I can remember seeing (not much competition there). Obviously it will never escape the cog comparison, but if making something out the car parts is off limits then surely making the car out of other things (like jigsaws) is similarly off limits after Skoda cake.
But what the fuck do I know. Maybe I should listen to the creative director responsible for the cadbury's chocolate biscuit ad.

Anonymous said...

Cars and car ads are taking over our world, making us all f*ckin zombified and slave to the death trap with four wheels. Wake up and smell the coffee, buy a bicycle its cheap and efficient and much more fun.