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Anatomy Of A Cannes Contender: Behind The Coolest Car Ad Of The Year, Honda’s “The Other Side”

To some, Honda’s interactive film was like magic. But getting a great ad made isn’t: make people feel something, rather than telling them something (and make it idiot-proof).

In a world of too many car commercials focusing on too many features and maybe a Sedona drive-by or two, anything deviating from the path is welcome. But Honda and agency Wieden + Kennedy London carved a whole new road with the interactive film “The Other Side,” an ingeniously simple idea to illustrate the stylish agility of the Civic hatchback. Directed by Daniel Wolfe, and created with interactive production company Stinkdigital, the film tells a story of the same man living two very different lives, allowing the user to switch, seamlessly, between the two narratives at the push of the R key. In one story, the protagonist is an everyday dad, picking the kids up at school. But with one touch of the keyboard, he becomes a getaway driver in a robbery speeding away from the cops. Viewers can go back and forth at will, and at speed, and see both sides of a double life play out in parallel.

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The end result bewitched all the Internet and earned massive media coverage and the film has won at best commercial and best online film at the British Arrows and Creative Circle awards, the IAB’s Grand Prix for both boldest brand and best creative idea, The One Show’s Best Interactive Automobile Ad of 2014, and more.

Here, W+K creative director Scott Dungate breaks down the details behind the car ad with a double life (and he really didn’t mean to call his parents idiots).

What was the brief?

Honda Civic is known for being safe and reliable, but people didn’t see it as sporty or desirable. The brief was to bring more desire to Honda’s Civic range by showcasing the Civic Type R, the Civic’s high-octane but lesser-known alter ego.


What was the insight that led to the winning idea?

It was sold to the client through a crude prototype we put together that had a car driving around a suburban environment, then an F1 car driving around a racetrack. What we noticed, even though there was no story at that point, was that it was a very satisfying feeling to switch between the two. It was just the pure button pressing instant feedback. Our ECD is always saying, “Make me feel something,” as opposed to telling something. We could have written something and made it into a bit of a manifesto film, but that doesn’t really get you to feel that other side the same way.

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The great thing about it is it’s idiot-proof. I sent it to my parents, who are always a great benchmark for these sort of things, and they got it right away. That’s the power of it. The analytics tell us almost everyone is pressing R all the way through. Unless you have a dedicated audience, like we do often with kids and Nike, most people don’t give a shit about interactive brand work like this unless you’ve got something simple that’s a good story.

What were some of the key decisions in terms of the creative and production process?

Selling an idea like this as a script is horrible, because on paper the script looked awful. Two stories, each thing mirrored…if we didn’t have the prototype or the storyboard, it wouldn’t make sense, and we kept those all the way through so people knew where things were headed. So I think a lesson was, the more complicated the idea, the more you can do to illustrate what it will be or feel like the better.


How did you measure success for this piece of content?

Well, obviously things like views, press, and buzz were taken into account. Average dwell time on the experience was just under three minutes which meant most people were staying for the full experience, essentially watching two three-minute car ads. That was good and rare result for anything on YouTube, interactive or otherwise. Traffic to the Civic website also doubled during the campaign.

What do you think the biggest lesson for marketers is from the success of “The Other Side?”

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Try and make entertainment. Never forget about the product, but give people a show, rather than an ad.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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