Honda Ads Turn On Successful Failures

Honda race car Honda is launching the next iteration of its eight-year-old corporate ad campaign, "Power of Dreams." The new campaign is something of a departure for the company, whose corporate ads starred the Asimo robot, Honda Jet and Clarity hydrogen fuel cell car. In the new campaign, Honda executives, engineers, racers and other employees and associates take the spotlight.

The integrated effort, via Santa Monica, Calif.-based RPA, centers on a series of Web-based, documentary-style video interviews with Honda employees and associates from Honda Motor President and CEO Takeo Fukui on down to engineers and others. The campaign drives traffic to, which hosts the "Dream the Impossible" videos in full-screen format.

Barbara Ponce, manager of corporate advertising at the Torrance, Calif.-based American Honda Motor, says the "Power of Dreams" campaign has indeed evolved since it was relaunched in a 2007campaign, "See what we see." That campaign featured the Asimo robot as camera-man, shooting footage of devices like the Honda Jet, Honda's solar car and the Clarity. She says that if previous campaigns have spotlighted Honda's technical wizardry, the new ads are about how the company got there.



Honda has also run corporate ads under the "Environmentology" banner, focusing on the fuel-efficiency and low emissions of its vehicles. Ponce says the new effort is meant to be long-term. "This is our brand-image campaign designed, so we are looking at a three- to-five-year execution," she says.

The effort launches with three 6- to-8-minute videos, "Kick Out the Ladder" and "Failure: The Secret to Success." The latter focuses on engineering challenges and how failure led to innovation and success at Honda. A third film explores the future of mobility.

The "Failure: The Secret to Success" includes a raft of engineers confessing their failures and how failure is inherent to advances in engineering. IndyCar driver Danica Patrick is featured speaking about her worst moment as an IndyCar racer, crashing at a race in Homestead, Fla. The film uses light bulbs as a metaphor, with hands screwing in lights that do not work initially.

Another--a speculative film about the future of mobility--features scientists, sci-fi writers and artists, including film director Christopher Guest. The film asks: "How will people get from point A to point B in 80 years?"

The campaign targets 25- to-49-year-old adults who, per the company, "are comfortable with technology, who value authenticity, and who are drawn to brands they can relate to, connect with, or admire."

This year, Honda is a first-time, exclusive automotive sponsor of the Sundance Film Festival and will screen the "Mobility 2088" film at the festival. It also will run ad units prior to feature films at independent theaters nationwide during February and March. The company will have 12 of its new Honda Insight hybrid cars at the festival. It was unveiled on Monday at the Detroit auto show.

The company will promote the Web site with Web ads and spots appearing online starting January through early February on Wired, Gawker Network, Discovery Channel, Time, Yahoo and CNN and online on full-episode players like,, and Hulu. The company says there will also be Web roadblocks, and page takeovers featuring multiple ad units, and pre-roll placements.

Even though Honda enjoys strong positive opinion among younger consumers, the effort is necessary, per Ponce, because "out of sight is out of mind; we have tremendous brand integrity and equity but we want to sustain that, and in order to do that we need to communicate regularly with customers, not just for the sake of communicating but sharing with them what the brand means. We want to share that we have the same fears and concerns and trepidations as everyone else, and here's how the whole Honda culture addresses those challenges."

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