Many firsts in the new Honda City ad

By Khushboo Tanna , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | December 08, 2008
This is the first TVC done by Honda Siel Cars for a specific product; the first film of a newly launched production house; and the director's and the music composers' first Indian ad film

What & #BANNER1 & # will your world be like when you drive the new Honda City? According to a commercial for the brand it will have lush green valleys, beautiful mountains and picturesque waterfalls.

The commercial shows a bright red Honda City cruising through some splendid landscapes. The driver manoeuvres the car through a waterfall in which he sees his own reflection. The car races past the reflection and comes to a stop. The driver steps out of the car and realises that he was imagining the setting while he was driving, so smooth was the performance of his car. As the music track speaks of "getting ahead of yourself", the ad ends with the voiceover, 'Enjoy Your Challenges'.

The creative brief

The ad has been created by Dentsu Marcom and produced by Samir Sarkar's newly founded production house, Magic Hours Films. This is the first campaign under the banner. The film was directed by a German car ad-film director, Alexander Paul, who has directed various international TV commercials for Mercedes Benz and Audi.

Adrian Mendonza, national creative director, Dentsu Marcom, says that the ad has a threefold agenda. One, they wanted the new Honda City to be recognised as a large player and not a niche player. Two, Honda wanted to highlight the fact that the new car was totally different from its earlier version, and not just a revamped model with a few added features. Three, the company wanted to increase its sales by targeting a new segment - young people who possibly own a small car such as a WagonR or a Santro and are looking to upgrade.

Given the beautiful locations in which the film is shot, isn't there a possibility that the ad might be remembered as a "wallpaper" one? Mendonza admits that that might be the case. "It was a risk we were willing to take because I had promised the Honda team that we would make the ad look real and not like a postcard," he explains.

Honda Siel Cars has been in India for a decade, but this is its first ever major TVC for a specific car model. In 2005, the company did a TV campaign to announce the launch of the first generation of the Honda City. Last year, it launched a corporate ad to celebrate 10 years of operation in India. However, both these campaigns enjoyed a rather brief run. So, in a sense, this is Honda's first major campaign in India.

Anita Sharma, general manager, marketing communications, Honda Siel Cars, explains the timing of the campaign: "All our previous cars were designed for a niche segment, so TV would have been futile then. This time, we wanted to widen the appeal."

With this campaign, Honda Siel Cars decided to change the target group from the successful, well-settled, middle-aged people who were the buyers of the old Honda City, to a younger audience aged 25-35 years.

Amalgamation of many firsts

Interestingly, the campaign is an amalgamation of many firsts, the obvious one being that this is Honda's first TVC for a specific product. Second, this is director Alexander Paul's first Indian ad campaign. The music has been composed by the popular Pakistani band, Strings - the first time that it has created an ad jingle.

Strings was sent the lyrics and shown the raw footage of the campaign. The band compiled the music and gave it a Sufi feel, a genre in which it is comfortable. The song was recorded at a studio in Karachi and the final mixing was done at Famous Studios in Mumbai.

The agency is currently in the process of doing some innovations in the digital space, such as creating virals, microsites and creative banner ads for the car. Dentsu and Honda will also provide customised ringtones and caller tunes because they feel that the music has the potential to become very popular. Besides these innovations, the usual media mix of print and outdoor will be used.

The 'waterfall' story
The TVC was shot in Kerala and Mumbai. The opening sequence of the film has been shot in Munnar and the waterfall sequence in Athirapally, both in Kerala. Since special effects were being used, the entire waterfall shot was recreated in Mukesh Mills in Mumbai.

Sarkar tells afaqs!, "While the film was shot over five days, we took five extra days to recreate the waterfall set in Mumbai. We had to use 65 tankers of water (1.5 lakh litres) to recreate the scene and make it look natural."

The industry reacts

The advertising fraternity has mixed opinions about the ad. Sambit Mohanty, executive creative director, Brand Planet Elephant, says, "'Enjoy Your Challenges', says the new Honda City TVC. But what exactly is the challenge here - driving into a waterfall and emerging unscathed? Nice looking car though!"

Akshay Kapnadak, creative director, McCann Erickson, says, "I don't quite get it. Are they trying to tell me that by purchasing the new look Honda City (and it does look great), I am challenging myself? How? Other than that, there are the mandatory car shots in an exotic location and the new improved features. And that's enough reason for anyone to buy the car. Not because I want to challenge myself."