Monday, January 30, 2012

Let's talk about Honda's Ferris Bueller Super Bowl ad

Honda's much-hyped Ferris Bueller-themed Super Bowl ad premiered on the Internet today, a week before its television debut during the big game, in an attempt to build buzz for the spot.

"We wanted to get it out there and start the hype," says Jason Sperling, executive vice president at RPA, the ad firm that thought up the spot [...] "You actually get a lot more eyeballs this way. You get a more attentive audience." Super Bowl commercial aficionados will recall that last year's Star Wars-themed Volkswagon commercial - in which a little boy in a Darth Vader costume uses Jedi mind tricks to start his dad's Passat - became a web sensation, with 8 million people watching the ad online before it actually aired during the game. "We have this Internet culture now, and people are starting to realize the value of it," says Sperling.
via EW.

It's certainly nice that Sperling and his advertising colleagues are discovering the potential of this newfangled Internet gadget, particularly as I tend to assume that all advertising execs are, like those of Mad Men, shocked every time some agency goes against convention and produces a truly memorable advertisement.

The aforementioned memorable advertisement, brought to you by the same company who gave you the Star Wars ad that was so loved by viewers of last year's Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of

The Ferris Bueller ad, however, is no "Lemon" or "The Force." It's not even a Geico "Caveman." Instead, it is a rehash of Ferris Bueller's Day Off that replaces everything with something slightly worse (which makes the choice of Hangover director Todd Phillips, who perfected the slightly worse-rehash with the second Hangover film, inspired). Chicago is now Los Angeles, "Sunday in the Park" becomes a display of walruses at a natural history museum, Ferris Bueller is now a middle-aged, paunchy Matthew Broderick and, worst of all, the Ferrari GT California is now a Honda CR-V.

The problem here is that Honda is trying to advertise the CR-V. And, while I'm sure the CR-V is a great car (like the Honda Pilot I drove in high school), everyone in the audience is going to remember that gorgeous Ferrari. The ad's appeal is dependent on nostalgia for the film; the whole point is to make viewers remember all the details, including the Ferrari. It's destined to backfire, because once viewers start comparing the film to the commercial, they're going to start comparing the CR-V to the GT California, and that is a contest that the CR-V is never going to win.

Don't take my word for it, though: watch the ad below, and decide for yourself. Does this make you want to buy a CR-V? Or does it just make you long for the days when Matthew Broderick was young and joyriding around Chicago in a red Ferrari?

1 comment:

  1. The nostalgia aspect worked for me, but that was because "Ferris Bueller" was a staple of my adolescent years - I wanted some of the magic back from the Matthew Broderick of 1986, and I willed it so, repressing the acknowledgement of how pathetic Broderick looked as a middle-aged man.

    I was really not enthused, though, at its lack of ingenuity. "Ferris Bueller" is a classic, but not everyone has seen it. Thus, the commercial and its success is dependent on something found outside of the bounds of the commercial. If your commercial is not accessible to all of your viewers the moment they see it, then the conceptual designer on your marketing team has failed utterly.