Inside the content world of Honda and other automotive brands

Honda is no stranger to using storytelling to sell its cars and motorbikes. It has invested heavily in film and has been working with London’s ad agency Wieden+Kennedy for several years and together they have won many industry awards for their creativity. Last year they topped the bill in the prestigious IAB Creative Showcase awards with their three minute cinematic experiment, The Other Side. The Japanese car maker released its film, which at first glance appears to be a single ad, promoting its latest Civic Type-R car on its YouTube channel. The letter ‘R’ is highlighted in red in all the captions – inviting digital viewers to press their corresponding buttons on their keyboards to reveal a parallel story of newly released wild child alter-ego of the Civic hatchback. It cleverly allows the audience to switch from viewing a suburban dad collecting his daughter from school and driving her to a surprise party to a night time father (his other darker side) who is an undercover cop catching thieves in a police sting. It’s a great piece of content that sits proudly at the centre of the stage on its website. The automotive brand has clearly believes in creating a cinematic experience aimed at inspiring and engaging its audience. Its YouTube channel is packed with videos documenting people’s journeys driving or biking around the world as well as coverage of major sporting events.

Elsewhere on social Honda has continued to be active. It has used its brand power to front campaigns like #SaveTheDriveIn in 2013 and last year’s #Cheerance campaign in 2014 that supported Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Back in 2013 it created a dedicated website on Tumblr to champion the tradition of the great American Drive-in, many of which are still in danger of closing. As local towns fail to upgrade their reels to digital the numbers attending drive-ins are dwindling. The #SaveTheDriveIn hashtag galvanised support for ‘Project Drive-in’ which encouraged local people to save their drive-ins up and down the country. The Tumblr site, which carried great user generated content, had an interactive element where fans could vote to save outdoor theatres from extinction. The winning cinemas received the needed $80,000 digital projectors, a cost which is prohibitive to many small towns. The campaign generated nearly 750,000 votes and raised more than $18,000 in contributions. Its promo video was viewed by more than 1 million people.

Honda’s social team upped the ante last year in its five day #Cheerance campaign in America – recruiting street entertainers, hosting live events as well as creating some great video for its YouTube channel with the aim of spreading ‘cheer to as many people as possible’ (as well as raising its own brand profile!). YouTuber Andrew Hales was videoed dancing with random strangers, selected cities were bestowed with buried treasure boxes containing money, gift cards and free tickets and elsewhere the brand placed signs at random that read ‘stand here for cheer’ and those that did, were given praise or gifts. Honda even created its own comedy channel featuring 60-second comedy clips from comedian Steve Simone.

Other automotive brands creating innovative content

Volkswagen’s Eyes on the Road film:

The road safety ad created by Ogilvy Beijing propelled Volkswagen to the forefront of people’s minds last year with its Eyes on the Road campaign. The film, aimed at highlighting the danger of texting whilst driving, showed unsuspecting movie goers in Hong Kong a clip of a car driving down the road as if they were in the driver’s seat. Makers of the film engineered it so that the audience received a text midway through the ad and while they were distracted, the car in the film crashes. The film ends with a message about the dangers of phone usage and driving. The video of the audience’s reaction went viral and the resulting in news coverage throughout the world.

Mazda’s Zoom Zoom Magazine:

Now in its 23rd edition and fourth year the digital magazine has been a hit for this automotive brand. With its sleek imagery and GIF magic it draws its loyal fans in. It’s simple and easy to nagivate the content on offer – ranging from brand news, driving route recommendations (its latest is from Barcelona), articles on current affairs such as an indepth look at the American city of New Orleans 10 years on from Hurricane Katrina and lots and lots about the car brand’s various makes and models.

Ford’s social-first approach:

The American car giant Ford is putting its marketing money into the hands of influencers rather than traditional media, like adverts, its VP of European communications announced earlier this year. It is heavily investing in creating compelling and engaging content that lands directly into the social media feeds of its fans and followers via key industry influencers. The car manufacturer has also taken to film-making to launch the latest model of the Ford Focus – hiring stunt driver Ken Block to put the car to the test and demonstrate its handling and gadgets which was seen by more than 1 million viewers.

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