American Honda Motor Co. will break out big-time celebrities and comedic license in a pair of 60-second TV commercials that will run during the Super Bowl.
An Acura spot -- the 1st Super Bowl appearance for the brand -- will feature comedian Jerry Seinfeld going to ridiculous lengths to bribe the man who holds the rights to the first 2015 Acura NSX supercar.
Meanwhile, Matthew Broderick will reprise his role as high school truant Ferris Bueller, calling in sick to an acting gig and spending the day gallivanting in a Honda CR-V crossover.
Both commercials will have 30-second versions that will run on TV through spring, as well as links to social media and "Easter egg" prize hunts. Outtakes and extended versions will run online on Honda's YouTube channel.
Honda is trying to drive traffic to Honda and Acura Web sites and showrooms desperate to rebound from last year's earthquake-related inventory shortages.
"We want to entertain an audience, engage them into the brand and generate buzz and excitement," said Mike Accavitti, American Honda's chief marketing officer. "The ads convey the product, message and brand in a memorable way to our target in a relevant way. That's what you want."
In the CR-V spot, Broderick calls in sick to his agent, then spends the day avoiding him while driving a CR-V between a roller-coaster ride, a museum tour and -- you guessed it -- singing in a parade.
The spot highlights the CR-V's Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, as well as a true test of the suspension that fans of Ferris Bueller's Day Off will appreciate.
The spot was directed by Todd Phillips, known for his work on The Hangover and Old School. The backing music for the spot, of course, is "Oh Yeah," by Yello.
"Ferris' whole thing was to smell the roses because life moves pretty fast," Accavitti said. "While many of our competitors are suggesting people use cars to escape life, we're saying, 'Go embrace it, have some fun.'"
In that sense, the Bueller spot is consistent with the mainstream CR-V campaign's "leap list," showing young adults following their dreams before they settle down to married life, Accavitti said.
Seinfeld raises the stakes
Bueller? Bueller? A valet awaits Matthew Broderick’s appearance. In the Honda Super Bowl spot, Ferris Bueller spends the day gallivanting in a Honda CR-V.
The Acura spot shows Seinfeld attempting, repeatedly, to bribe the ordinary customer who is 1st in line to buy the NSX.
Seinfeld starts by offering $20. In escalating fashion he then offers the man the Soup Nazi, "the last living munchkin," dirty limericks at a family dinner, a space alien and his cigarette racing boat -- all without success. Finally, upon being offered access to Seinfeld's private zip line through Manhattan, the man relents. Only Jay Leno appears in a "jet-pack flying-squirrel suit" and wins the man's rights to the NSX.
While using celebrities can be dicey in car advertising, Seinfeld and Leno are car collectors, which adds legitimacy to the commercial, Accavitti said.
"This is unprecedented time in our history," he said. "We needed to get Acura noticed."
Citing the world debuts of the NSX, ILX sedan and RDX crossover at the Detroit auto show, Accavitti added: "We had the big bang in Detroit. We wanted to leverage that."
The Acura spot will run during the 3rd quarter. The Honda spot will run at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Both spots were created by longtime American Honda agency Rubin Postaer and are a change of pace from the years of pedestrian work from the shop.
"We had to free them, empower them and let them come up with some new ideas," Accavitti said.
"I've known they were capable of it. You can't coerce creativity out of people. This is not about putting hands around someone's neck and saying, 'You better be creative.'"
The Acura spot was directed by Craig Gillespie, known for the Snickers "Betty White" spot, in which the 90-year-old comedian appears to be slammed to the turf. Accavitti said that Seinfeld contributed substantial creative assistance in the final cut.
Comedian had input
"Jerry knew we were trying to sell cars," Accavitti said. "He wouldn't infringe on our brand, but we listened to the guy. The concept was by RPA, and Jerry helped tune it up. The alien thing was complete improv. The zip line was his idea."
Accavitti said the Super Bowl is worth the cost.
"Everything we do, we measure and analyze," he said. "So while Super Bowl ads are expensive endeavors, the reach you get, if done correctly, the lead-up and long-tail follow-up takes the [cost-per-million viewers] down below normal TV levels."