How Honda Fumbled Its Super Bowl Commercial Already

A couple of things to be made clear. First, the goal of this post is not to try to include as many football metaphors as I can. Secondly, I actually really love Super Bowl commercials. It is by far the best time (and will continue to be) to view advertisements. There isn’t one singular moment that has become so legendary in advertising lore than the first Sunday in February. I just happen to disagree with the way Honda has gone about things this year. They’ve just really dropped the ball (okay, that’s one) strategy-wise. Full disclosure, I actually didn’t think the end product was too bad. 

The Super Bowl has always been a hub for classic ads. Arguably the greatest commercial of all time, Apple’s 1984, was a Super Bowl ad. Not to mention the countless beer, car, and soft drink ads that have become a part of popular culture and all originated on Super Sunday.

Brands have shelled out big bucks to appear for 15, 30, or 60 seconds in front of, usually, the biggest television audience of the whole year. Recently, there has been more conversation than usual on Super Bowl Sunday thanks to the increase in ‘social TV’ – the theory that, although we may be watching television on our own, we are engaged to a connected environment; tweeting, commenting, and reacting with our friends and the world.

Thanks to social TV and the rise of brands and advertisers attempting to make the most share-worthy content possible, there has been more anticipation than ever for what’s to come for 2012.

Reflecting on last year, one of the best spots from not only the 2011 Super Bowl, but of the entire year, was Volkswagen’s The Force which gained praise from around the advertising world and at last check, had nearly 50 million views on YouTube.

By mid-January of this year, consumers had already been treated to a teaser to Volkswagen’s follow-up spot set to air at the Super Bowl – a handful of dogs barking the theme from Star Wars, and a few words (typed, not barked): “Back. And better than ever. 2.5.12” (the day of this year’s Super Bowl).

This clearly showed that Volkswagen would be returning once again with a Star Wars-themed advertisement.

Over 10 million views of the teaser video later, and Volkswagen has definitely got our attention.

A few days later, on January 26, the internet went abuzz when a ten second YouTube clip featuring an aged Matthew Broderick popped up.

No branding, no graphics.

Broderick opens up some curtains, and with that timeless school-boy drawl, speaks to the masses as Ferris Bueller once again.

He says: “How can I handle work, on a day like today?” as the movie’s theme music plays and the commercial fades to black, save for a flash of a familiar date: 2.5.12.

Nearly 4.5 million views, 6,000 comments, and four days later, the world had the answer for why Ferris was making his triumphant return.

To drive a Honda CR-V of course!

The full two-and-a-half minute commercial was uploaded to YouTube by Honda on January 26, and (only) has about 440,000 views in one day. The logic for why Honda decided to do this has escaped me.

A captivated and engaged audience across generations talking about why Ferris Bueller had returned to their screens was just handed over everything, and more, about a week before the big game.

Is there more in store? Hopefully. But does Honda also have all the momentum heading into Super Bowl weekend? Definitely.

However, with 10 million views of a ten-second video in four days, who’s to say Honda couldn’t have released another teaser? Keep the audience – both consumer and industry – guessing up until the big day.

Most of the comments on the video are negative either about Honda or the commercial itself. By releasing the full spot nearly a week before the Super Bowl, this allows not only potential Honda customers, but also fans of the movie, to criticize and scrutinize the use of Bueller all the way up until Sunday, taking away from the big release.

People will already have a negative taste in their mouth when they see what should be the ‘big’ spot on Sunday.

One commenter on YouTube said, “thanks for ruining the Super Bowl by releasing it early.” Although I wouldn’t go that far, the folks at Honda should have called an audible (okay, there’s two) and kept secrecy on their side until the big day.


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