TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter – July 2003

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Honda's Amazing "Cog" Commercial – The Backstory
Maybe a friend already emailed you a link to this incredible two-minute video extravaganza. Perhaps you – like me – watched in amazement as a Rube Goldbergian contraption sprang to life, and with beautifully synchronized choreography, introduced the new Honda Accord.

If you've seen it, your initial thought probably was, "Computer simulations look exceptionally real these days…" However, the truly incredible thing about this video ad is that it was done without any computer animation or imaging tricks. The cameras rolled in real-time for 120 seconds to capture the exquisitely complex interaction between the disembodied components of a new automobile.

Honda Ad Screen Shot

Click to Open Video Launch Page

Click to Play Video (Broadband Required)

Just as amazing as the film itself is the story behind the story. The how and why deserves some ink in The Urbach Letter. It's a great little marketing case study. This commercial was created for Honda of the U.K. and has been airing in England since April 6th. It's since taken on a life of its own on the web as the streaming video version has been clicked 'round the world by "word of mouse." Created by the Portland Oregon ad firm of Weiden & Kennedy at a cost of over one million dollars, the piece is now a contender for the "Grand Prix" in the International Advertising Festival in Cannes. The campaign is doing wonders for Honda's lackluster brand in England. (Unlike in the United States, Hondas there have a reputation for being dull and lacking in style. Their engineering is regarded as inferior to the elite European marques.) However, this ad is changing attitudes. Since it started airing, the British press has picked up the story and created a lot of buzz. Honda's web site traffic is up 400%, calls to their telephone information center have tripled, and guys like me are spreading the story far and wide.

Do you think that would have *ever* happened with an ordinary car commercial? Of course not. Especially since most auto ads are so similarly cast: beauty shots of cars careening along a twisty road… or the ubiquitous SUV plowing through a mud puddle. Yawn. No, this is more performance art than car commercial. More "Mousetrap" than typical slice-of-car-ownership-life. This ad *deserves* the recognition it's getting. That's what happens when a forward-thinking client and a creative agency get together. To create "Cog," Weiden & Kennedy assembled a team of engineers, sculptors, art directors, and film pros. It took one month to draft the script, two months for concept drawings and storyboards, and four more months of development and testing. Filming took place over four days and nights in a huge studio in Paris France. After 605 takes (yes, six hundred and five), they finally got it right on the 606th. Finally, everything worked. Most of the crew didn't sleep during the entire 4-day shoot.

The end result is Cog, destined to become an advertising legend. Cog will take its place next to Apple's "1984" (which put the Macintosh on the computing map) and Lyndon Johnson's 1964 spot, "Daisy," as one of the most memorable, attitude-changing commercials of all time.

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(c) Copyright 2002-2010 Victor Urbach
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