Wieden+Kennedy launches Honda’s mean machine with a drive on the wild side

Here’s a cute online launch film for the Honda Civic Type R from Wieden & Kennedy. It breaks today.

“Cute” might not seem the right word for this 290 bhp turbo-charged boy-racer’s wet dream that achieves 0-62 mph in fewer than 7 smoke-billowing seconds.

What’s cute is Honda’s marcoms strategy. Next year is a big one for the Japanese car manufacturer. It has no less than four major model launches coming off the ramps. That’s a sizeable proportion of its total range, even in today’s over-segmented motor market. So Honda needs to put us in the right mood, get the adrenaline pulsing as it were.

The “R” stands for “Rally” or “Race” but no boy-racers will be buying this motor. Not for 4 or 5 years at any rate. Positioned between the VW Golf GTI and Golf 4×4 R, this is a £30,000 car beyond the pocket of any but the vaguely promising League Two footballer. What it’s really about is creating a halo effect that will draw we more humdrum motorists to the rest of the range. The new Civic Type R, Honda is saying, is the exemplar of all that is best in the marque: dull, dependable, reliability of course; but also pulse-racing advanced engineering that is Formula One bred.

“The Other Side”, as this breaking W&K campaign is called, weaves the two aspects of buyer psychology – left brain, right brain; rational and emotional – in a particularly clever online way. It builds a story in what appear to be two parallel worlds, minutely interrelated at all points of the narrative. All you have to do is hit the “R” button (R, geddit?) on your keyboard and You Tube does the rest; then hit it again, and you’re back to where you were. A middle-aged, middle class guy in a vanilla-flavoured Honda Civic draws up in front of a school, apparently to pick up his two daughters for a fancy-dress party. Press “R”, though, and day instantaneously morphs into night and the Civic, a bit like Cinderella’s pumpkin, into a red-hot hatch – the aforementioned 290hp throbbing under the bonnet and an outsize tail-stabiliser bristling on the gate. It’s on the lam from an art heist, “Dad” at the helm with two burly crims in the back (yep, notice the adult headroom here, a desirable marketing feature in a car so small). Whatever happened to Daddy’s two little angels? Well, hit “R” and find out.

For those who would rather not know the ending, avert your eyes for the next para. You thought Dad was inhabiting a fantasy world didn’t you? He’s the Walter Mitty in all of us suburban workaday dads who wouldn’t dream of knowingly incurring a parking fine, let alone riding over a speed bump at 70mph? Wrong. This is the dad who has it all. He really is living the dream. In fact he’s an undercover policeman who’s driving our two art thieves into a carefully coordinated sting. Job done, as dark turns to dawn, he parks up the red mean machine and clambers into his white school runaround. Or is that the other way around – dusk into dark, white into red. It all depends whether you press the “R” key.

Credits where credits are due. “The Other Side” was shot by Daniel ‘Catch Me Daddy’ Wolfe; music was scored by Bobby Krlic of The Haxan Cloak; and the interactive stuff – which is indeed very slick – by Stinkdigital.

The Honda Civic Type R will be physically available next year, in the wake of the March Geneva Motor Show. Expect plenty of across-the-line activity at that point.

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About Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith is one of the most incisive and knowledgeable commentators on global marketing. He was a long-time editor of Marketing Week during the period when it was the UK’s leading marketing, media and advertising specialist publication. Visit Stuart Smith Blog.

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