Why we shouldn’t be surprised Honda makes the most viral car ads

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Analysis Japanese car manufacturer Honda has hit first and second place in terms of the top 10 most viewed car adverts in the UK since 2010, according to figures published by video analytics provider Visible Measures.

Colour us at MarketingTech as less than surprised. Infact, if the story had to be delivered in a Buzz Feed-styled headline, it would be: “You Won’t Believe Which Car Manufacturer Creates The Most Viral Ads…Oh Wait, Yes You Will.” So why would this be?

Looking at the figures only goes to prove that the biggest budgets don’t automatically create the biggest hits. That doesn’t mean Honda is lacking in advertising dollar, however. According to Business Insider, the firm’s ad budget was $1.14bn in 2011-12, being one of only 38 companies in the feted ‘billionaires club’, ahead of the likes of Sony, Apple and Microsoft.

Problem is, however, that four car companies have more budget than Honda – namely Toyota, Fiat, Ford and General Motors, which spent an eye-watering $3.1bn, only placing behind Procter & Gamble.

Therefore it’s not the full story. Honda sets aside as much as 30 percent of its US marketing budget for “risky” initiatives, according to reports in October last year.

What would these risks involve? There were a couple of interesting ideas laid down in a report by Marketing Australia, specifically regarding Pinterest – the car firm challenged users with high follower counts to stay away from the photo-pinning site for 24 hours, with a $500 reward to promote one of their pinned images.

It’s pretty low budget as far as campaigns went, but with 4.6m users exposed to the advertising and more than 5000 repins, it could be considered something of a success.

So what of the ads themselves? Hands and Illusions: An Impossible Made Possible, released in July and October 2013 respectively, garnered the most views – 12m and 7.1m.

The Japanese car firm swept up at the 2014 One Show Automobile Advertising Awards at the Detroit Auto Show, winning three of the six gongs on offer. Hands took home the Broadcast award, whilst Sound of Honda grabbed the spoils in Online and Illusions won the Public Choice prize.

Of the other videos in the UK top 10, Chevrolet took third and fourth place with Outstanding Design (6.65m) and LifeTest (4.9m). The remaining entries in the top 10 were all from different automotive firms; Volkswagen, Volvo, Toyota, MINI, Land Rover and Audi.

Mallory Russell, director of content at Visible Measures, said of the results: “This list isn’t full of standard auto ads, the kind where a car drives around as a voice over discusses its features.

“All of these ads have engaged viewers because they tell stories and show how a vehicle is more than a mode of transportation – it’s part of a lifestyle.”

It says something of the competition that, the only one which comes close to Honda’s standings was an advert released in August 2011. What’s more, Honda has been doing this for years – this author remembers very fondly the brilliant Cog advert, as well as making Andy Williams’ ‘The Impossible Dream’ popular again.

Of course, the byword for brands and agencies today is mobile – and with Honda’s move with Zynga to create the developer’s first mobile ad campaign back in October 2012, the finger’s definitely in that pie too.

So with a combination of long-standing viral, innovative social media and mobile, it’s clear who’s leading the way. Check out Hands and Illusions below.

Read more: The advertising revolution will not only be televised – it’ll be on mobile too

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