Honda Pilot

Your Favorite TV Ad

People will claim this as their favorite ad. The RPA agency will win awards. And sales of Ozzy's catalog will spike before Christmas.

But it won't sell cars.
Honda Pilot

The car in question.

I like group a capella singing. I love group a capella sound effects.

My favorite radio commercials of all time are a series for Trop ArcticTM All Season Motor Oil produced in the late 70s.  A group of exceptional jingle singers imitated the sound of a railroad crossing, complete with warning bells, locomotive sounds, and a perfect doppler effect as the train roared by.

That was radio in 1979.  In 2011 there is an equally well done television ad.  Its running right now.

Have you seen this ad?

An SUV drives down the highway. Three boys in the back seat. Three girls in the middle seat. A pair of adults (Dad and Mom?) in the front. The blonde boy in the middle of the back seat starts making mouth noises.

“Bum bum.”   (high) “Bum bum.”   (low) “Bum bum.”   (back to normal) “Bum bum.”

As he repeats, the leftmost girl in the middle seat opens up with “ah-ee ah-ee ah-ee ah-ee.”

The kid directly behind her holds up his soft drink cup, empty of soda, and rattles the ice.  Cut to Dad simulating downward a bass glissando.

Bam! The eight people in the car are now each performing their respective parts of a song intro which is becoming very familiar. Kids are fingering their shoulder belts as if they’re playing guitars, and as the camera pulls back to show a full view of the automobile, the passengers all burst into the classic Ozzy Osborne, “Goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.”

Have you seen this ad? If not, I’m sure you will. The ad is scheduled to run during “Dancing With the Stars,” “Big Bang Theory,” and“The Biggest Loser.”

Shall we make some predictions?

People all over America will claim this is their favorite ad. The RPA agency of Santa Monica will win awards. And sales of Ozzy’s catalog will spike before Christmas.

This ad won’t sell cars

Here. I’ll prove it. Show of hands – who knows the ad of which I’m speaking? Oh, a bunch of you. Let’s see… one, two, three… twenty-seven, twenty-eight, two hundred nineteen, a few more…

Now, keep your hand up if you can name the car.

Oh. My. Nobody?  Nobody remembers the car being advertised?

And that’s the issue, isn’t it.

In my favorite radio ads the singers pause the sound effects several times to sing out boldly, “Trop ArcticTM, All Season Motor Oil. Long live your caaaarrrrr.

Thirty years later I still remember those Trop ArcticTM ads.

But vast numbers of viewers who will claim this new TV ad is their favorite, won’t know who to thank for the entertainment. An automobile manufacturer who probably spent half a million dollars to produce this ad, and several million more for TV airtime, will not receive the highest and best use of his advertising dollars.

Because we don’t remember the name of the automobile. We remember “Crazy Train.”

This is a catchy, very well produced, and very bad ad. Please don’t create ads like this if you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

PS. Oh, you really can’t remember the make and model of the car in the ad, and it’s driving you crazy? Here’s thirty seconds of some pretty well done TV.

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about creating ads which help customers to remember your name? Call Chuck at 760-813-5474. Or “E” him at

1 Comment

  1. Justin McCullough

    This, honestly, is a great example of why I hate the advertising and marketing industry we live in. Cute, catchy and glossy stuff sales more agency work, not more product. It’s a spiral of ego. Big Executive “wants the best” ads they can get you know, like _______ fill in the blank with another commercial equally cute and catchy. Then the parade of poor logic takes place. Because the Executive likes the ad (from a perspective of wanting an ad like that), they rationalize that it must be effective because the like it – and “they should do that too”. Then the logic goes on to include other things like awards won or other high creative that’s like-able (again from an evaluation of the ad agency – not an evaluation of the performance of the ad agency effort). Total mis-attribution here and it clogs the mind of many would-be successful business owners and marketers alike who can not produce advertising or media spends at these levels.

    I love this ad by the way, I’m an Ozzy fan and I think it’s got a certain hipness that speaks to me. But I too could not remember the car or distinguishing elements of the product.

    I think its a great play on pop-culture, it’s got all the demo’s accounted for, and it’s entertaining and also, completely focused on the wrong content. If this car is comfortable, has great gas mileage, super roomy seating and one hell of a GPS system – all things I can attempt to extract from the shots and “hints” in the commercial, no one knows it.

    Keeping it in line with a capella – I think everyone knows or will at least remember the classic Coke spot with the diverse youth culture on the hilltop “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing – In Perfect Harmony”. Did you have the tune in mind by the end of that line? (watch here ). What McCann-Erickson did in 1971 as Coke’s ad agency was similar to this Honda ad – only it included all the highly effective elements NOT included in this Honda ad. McCann-Erickson’s ad was product focused while also being entertaining, emotional, and relevant. As the spot goes on, you hear “I’d like to buy they world a Coke and keep it company. That’s the real thing. What the world wants today -Is the real thing”. It’s got the product name and the tag line rooted in the core of the song. This ad sold product first, then sold how great McCann-Erickson was as an agency. Awards were won, Coke was happy, and it was extremely innovative 40 years ago.

    On this Honda ad, RPA Agency will win awards and maybe Honda is happy, but it’s too busy selling ‘the experience of the car in every day life” that it forgot to sell the car.

    While I’m here – if you don’t mind…

    Hyundai broke the rules by un-paralleled mileage warranty with relatively cheap unimaginatively designed vehicles. Then they continued to improve the product and design of the product, showcase the product, and now have the assurance program that locks in the current purchase future trade in value so you know to sell your used Hyundai back to them and get a new Hyundai as part of the trade in. Holy crap – anyone else doing this?! Now, I still don’t own a Hyundai, but have I looked it up online and do I consider it a viable candidate for my next purchase – you bet.

    Several years ago, Dodge began pushing for their brand to be seen as powerful. Spots had deep announcer voices, they began celebrating Hemi engines to make it synonymous with Dodge and at the height of their relentless media push they ran spots that said “Dodge, Dodge Dodge” throughout the spot. I really don’t remember the vehicle, but damn if Dodge didn’t carve out a spot in my brain.

    In 2003, the Mitsubishi Eclipse “Days Go By” commercial took center stage and is now considered a highly memorable ad – one, in my opinion that has not been replicated by Mitsubishi in any way since. You probably know it as the “techno car ad with the chick dancing” (watch here ) Even though this ad doesnt include product mention in the audio, it definately showcases the product and has a clear price offer. Ultimately the spot did well because it was relevant and targeting the right demo and produced for that demo (from art, style, music and actors). It was focused and it said – if you are young adult teen to twenty something and you have a cool factor or want a cool factor, the eclipse is the ONLY thing for you. But did you know that Ford did a techno car video 3 years earlier? (watch ). I think you’ll see why it was forgotten and didnt get praise like Mitsubishi and ultimately was not distinguished as innovative – again, in my mind, a spot for ad agencies not a spot for selling cars.

    … I guess what I’m saying then, is this ad is likeable but not original, relevant but not focused, entertaining but not product centric, and catchy but not pervasive. No true resonating points, no real call to action and no new elements or offers. The agency work is competent and again, peers and those who buy ad agency services will like it, but the buyers of cars, they’ll just move along.