Spannerhead Dot

Honda’s Super Bowl Ad:
Automotive Middle Age Malaise

January 31, 2012 by Matt

I think this one might backfire on Honda. Maybe not on a conscious level for the average viewer, but there are definitely depressing undercurrents.

Briefly, then, let’s discuss the clip’s highlights

  1. The car is prominently featured. In contrast to many car ads which put forth an idea or attempt to create a mood in lieu of actually showing the vehicle, we are “treated” (I use that word loosely) to some nice shots and angles of the CR-V tooling around.
  2. Exuberant pacing. The editing of the clip effectively communicates the car’s runabout, practical nature as a sort of “companion” that can keep up with a busy daily routine.
  3. All the scenes are easy to correlate with those of the original film. The ad pays homage to all the iconic scenes from the ’80s classic; I can’t think of anything from the original I wish they had paid tribute to in the TV spot.

And poor decisions:

  1. The whole premise of the ad. Matthew Broderick’s character Ferris Bueller drives a Ferrari 250GT Calfornia during his “day off” in the original film. I can’t imagine many things more singularly depressing than puttering around town in a Honda CR-V, remembering that day from my youth when I was serenaded by the dulcet tones of a six-Weber Ferrari V12 at WOT all day long. If that isn’t a metaphor for the descent into mediocrity that often accompanies middle age, I don’t know what is.
  2. Ferris is old. Yes, the ad’s concept is that Broderick—not the character he’s completely synonymous with—is experiencing a real-life Ferris-like “day off,” but who are they kidding? Viewers will immediately see Ferris, not Broderick; more than that, they’ll notice he’s aged, and as much as fans of the original film identified with and wanted to be Ferris, anyone who watches the ad is encouraged to identify with the older, squishier “Ferris.” Not a pleasant proposition.
  3. The final shot of the car shows it bottoming out in a shower of sparks. Yes, the shot recalls the inimitable Ferrari + Star Wars theme music scene from the ’80s movie, but is that really the final impression to make on your viewers? A dumpy-looking CR-V clanking down on the asphalt, rear wiper flapping ignominiously?

So, some good points and some significant debits. Overall, a thumbs-down to Honda’s too-cute effort. Give me the Seinfeld/Jay Leno Acura NSX ad instead. Even if it doesn’t really show the car all that much.

Filed under: Honda, Media, News


  1. John D says:

    It’s just so…darn…incredibly…excruciatingly…inexplicably…inexorably…so…very…very…long… ……. …….. ……..


  2. John D says:

    And definitely not for the younger demographic. Then again, I think any ad man would be hard pressed to make the CRV appealing to anyone under the age of 30…or 35… Then again there is that one thing they do sometimes, you know when they hype things up and talk about them as if they were one way when they really aren’t. What’s that called again? Oh, right: lying. Either way I’m glad I’m not the executive who had to make the choice between lying and airing that ad… ;)

    • Matt says:

      :) You summed up why I could never be sales or marketing. BSing my way through a design presentation is about all I can handle.

      In the case of the CR-V ad, it’s just weird they would have banked so hard on folks transferring their positive emotions about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to the ad without anticipating the very real possibility of viewers projecting their negative emotions about aging and boring daily routines to the car. That should have been obvious, y’know?

  3. Mike B. says:

    The CRV commercial blew, but my God the NSX commercial was awesome (of course that had nothing to do with the car).

  4. Diane says:

    I’d never seen the NSX commercial until now. Good call…that one was hilarious. The former? Thoroughly depressing.

Leave a Reply