Wieden + Kennedy’s new pan-European advertising campaign for the Honda Jazz comprises a 60-second epic animated commercial, alongside a series of print ads and an iPhone app. Titled This Unpredictable Life, the TV spot aims to depict the numerous joys and challenges that we encounter through our lives and to articulate that the Honda Jazz is designed to deal with all of life’s everyday demands, no matter how varied.
“The Honda Jazz is a brilliantly practical car; perfect for things like popping out to pick up the shopping,” say Chris Groom and Sam Heath, creative directors on the project. “But these tasks are unpredictable. You can’t know who will be going [on such a trip], how far the journey is, what they’re picking up and so on. The Jazz is engineered to cope with these changing demands. We tried to dramatise that in the most engaging way possible.”
The ad saw the Honda team reunited with Smith & Foulkes, the directors behind the celebrated Grrr spot for the brand, which was created back in 2004. For this new ad, Smith & Foulkes have created a surreal rolling landscape to depict one man’s journey through life, which is populated by a diverse range of characters including pets, partners and children. “The team at Wieden + Kennedy asked us to visually interpret their beautifully poetic script, a fantastic opportunity of endless possibilities that doesn’t come along very often,” say Smith & Foulkes. “How can you encapsulate the unpredictable randomness of growing up, falling in love and starting a family? In 60 seconds? Our simple plan centred the story on a hero who would encounter all manner of epic silliness as he navigates his way through life.”
A number of the characters in the ad reappear in the iPhone app that accompanies the TV spot. The app contains one particularly striking innovation: the ability for users to ‘grab’ these characters from the TV screen (or computer, wherever the ad is being watched) by swiping the iPhone at it, Nintendo Wii-style. “We wanted to find a different way of doing something around a TV ad, and this whole two-screen thing [see CR Jan] feels like an interesting area,” say Groom and Heath of the app. “The brief was to do something digital that enhances the campaign.… What we didn’t want to do was create a microsite or something that lived apart from the television ad. We thought if we’re spending a lot of time creating this film, and getting people to engage with the film, couldn’t we find a way of using it?”
The app, which was created in conjunction with Gravity Mobile, uses sound-synching technology to allow viewers to catch the animated characters from the film. “We didn’t arrive at that technology, we just arrived at the idea,” continue Groom and Heath. “We wanted to find a way of synching the film with another device, and for scenes from the film to transfer across. We didn’t know how we were going to do it, and then the idea of linking with the soundtrack became a way of achieving that.” Up to seven characters can be ‘caught’ from the ad, all of which can then be played with via the app.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Alexander Kalchev & Siavosh Zabeti, creatives, DDB Paris
The Unpredictable Life looks and sounds beautiful. Unfortunately, while the ad is extremely well-produced and crafted, its core message is not as convincing as Grrr. We found the end of the commercial contradictory to the story it was telling. The unpredictable life suddenly becomes … predictable.
When we tried the iPhone app, it didn’t work at first, because we were using headphones, but then we realised that it must be sonic controlled. We then played around with it and it worked well.
Overall a beautiful experience that has the enormous disadvantage of inevitably being compared to one of the best ads of all time.
Jon Williams, chief digital officer, Grey EMEA
I can remember being foreman of the interactive TV jury at D&AD a few years back. As a media it emerged blinking into the light, and then promptly breathed its last. Or did it? Perhaps this is the beginning of a creative resurgence of interest? I hope so. The fact that we all watch TV now with a device to hand opens up new possibilities. The X-factor is much more fun when you’ve got your social feed running at the same time. So why not use devices with ads? We all saw that butterfly catching app that Dentsu showed the world last year. This is similar, using the soundtrack instead of geolocational data to identify what you are catching. It’s always hard doing something first. You have to do the icebreaking for those who follow, and for that I applaud those who slaved to get this to work. The trick with interactive TV was to ensure that the viewer had the time and a reason to find the remote and push the red button during the ad. Here you need to launch an app (assuming you have downloaded it). And then get interacting. It’s a big ask. If you ignore the hubris about the digital cleverness, the ad isn’t of the same calibre as Grrr, although executionally similar, and the app although clever doesn’t give enough back to the viewer in terms of entertainment or functionality. My worry is that the reward doesn’t justify the effort required. Having said that, I think it’s the first of many. It’s a space that’s only going to get more interesting.
Beeker Northam, executive strategy director, Dentsu London
I like quite a lot about this. The experimentation with screens, the animation, the fact that Honda continues to be the only car manufacturer on the planet that makes pretty consistently good creative communications.
There’s other stuff that I’m not so excited about. I’m convinced I only bothered with the full TV/app deal and did what I’m supposed to do, wanging my phone about in front of a screen, because I have this job. Getting an app on your phone still requires a bit of an effort and, besides, it is quite a personal thing – I’m not in the habit of filling my devices with advertising. So all through the preparation bit of this I was thinking, “this had better be good….” Which is obviously a little bit of a problem for anything that needs to be persuasive.
The fact that my speakers aren’t part of, or that near my screen, which meant that the sound recognition was a bit patchy and the motion unintuitive, was pretty fatal. Once I had caught Honda’s dog, I didn’t really want to tickle him, and when I did, he didn’t react that charmingly. Some of that’s about interaction design, some of it’s just that the idea didn’t go very far. But I wouldn’t call the experience immersive, or meaningful. It was a bit of a palaver. The best bits of this work are in the TV.