Honda's "Leap List" Works When Scaled Down

My current fave TV commercials hawk Honda's newly redesigned and rejiggered CR-V. In one, a scruffy young turk responds to his wife/partner/whatever's suggestion about having a baby by hallucinating about spelunking and robot pugilism; in the other, a bright-eyed ladygal responds to her boyfriend/cabana boy/whatever's marriage proposal by rhapsodizing about drum lessons
and roadtrips with her estro-genius clique. In both, the fantasy segments end with a monogamy-and maturity-affirming, "Okay! But there's a lot to get done first, like parasailing, and the CR-V is the mini-SUV-for-all-seasons in which we shall gallivant. Adventure-ward, ho!"

The ads crack me up, especially when I reenact them with The Missus: "Sure, let's spawn… But before we do, I want to claw desperately at the few unspooled threads of my lapsing young-adulthood. Do you know where I can find a kayak and a housebroken llama?" Rarely has such a pure, unfiltered depiction of an ad exec's notion of what cusp-of-true-adulthood 30-somethings would choose to do with their last minutes of freedom found its way onto our screens.

As it turns out, the ads stand as the opening salvo in Honda's "Leap List" campaign. The idea is that almost-mature individuals should make a "leap list" of activities to complete before they settle down and start thinking that eight undisturbed minutes to shower and shave is the epitome of temporal luxury, as I now do. Think of it as a hipster scavenger hunt as envisioned by
Outward Bound grads. To hear Honda tell it: "We all have a few things we'd like to get to before leaping into life's next chapter. Maybe it's skydiving. Maybe it's Mardi Gras. Maybe it's learning to Salsa. We call it your Leap List. It's everything you wanna do before everything you oughta do. And the all-new 2012 CR-V is built to help you get to every last one of them."

(Separately, wouldn't the proper phrasing be "Maybe it's attending Mardi Gras" and either "learning to Salsa dance" or "learning to eat salsa"? If I don't stop micro-parsing online ad copy, my brain is gonna leak out of my ears.)

This would be all well and good if the positioning weren't so transparent or if the accompanying video and other online doodads added another dimension to it, which they don't. In addition to flogging Honda's Ferris Bueller homage of a Super Bowl commercial - which, since it popped up last week, the Internet has loved, hated, loved again, accused of tarnishing its
cherished pop-cultural touchstones, offered as evidence that Matthew Broderick is like totally a sell-out and used as a launching point for a warm, misty-eyed appreciation of the John Hughes oeuvre - the "Leap List" site offers an expanded play (and weirdly capitalized) play on the concept and the obligatory please-God-engage-with-us-so-we-can-proclaim-that-we're-good-at-Facebook plea for input.

This time, it takes the form of communal leap lists: Lori wants to buy a house ("nothing fancy just something that wont leak or cave in! a garden area is a must!"), while Sabah notes that "I had to overcome my own fear and doubt. I quit my job, left my family and moved across the country to live my dream." Judging from the no-res photo, it appears that Sabah sells tchotchkes under the freeway underpass. Dream big, kids.

The irony is that, elsewhere on the site, two videos illustrate that the "leap list" bit could work if scaled way the hell back. The first depicts a post-marathon runner contorting her way into a CR- V and appreciating its creature comforts, while the second takes grandma on a road trip to see the house in which she grew up. Both are small, quiet and oddly moving, unlike the spots that celebrate post-hipster escapades.

I like the CR-V. So does Consumer Reports, sort of. I do not, however, think the flashier (and more hyped, judging by the amount of airplay) "leap list" executions do anything to distinguish it from the competition. "Well-made car you can drive to all the places you go to" may not be catchy or grammatically simpatico, but Honda should restrict itself to getting across that simple message. Don't overthink this stuff.



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