Critical Review

29 Nov

As you know I have been conducting extensive research into Honda’s Cog advert and have come to the point where I must write a review that displays my understanding of this ad and how it affected the World. This is great because now I have the information to back up my arguments. The questions I ask myself now are to try and ascertain just how successful this ad was. I can only do that by seeing how it affected the industry and its target audience. The two questions are interlinked they will merge at times within my essay. So my two questions I will be covering during my critical review will be:

How did it affect its target audience?

What was The Cog’s effect on the UK advertising market?

Honda took the UK by surprise on its release day of 6th April 2003. When it was aired during the commercial break to the Brazilian Grand Prix. It is important to consider the people who watch the Grand Prix are avid car lovers and families because its a Sunday. Why people enjoy grand prix I don’t understand  watching cars go round and round an oval shaped track makes me sleepy. So it was quite a strategic airing for the first viewing of the Cog and it sparked quite a few articles in British newspapers. More importantly the day after the Cog was aired “Honda’s website received more hits than at any time in history, and overnight became the second largest automotive website.”

This kind of reaction to an ad is unheard of in the ad industry and I’m sure it was because of the fact that The Cog is so different to so many other ads we see on TV today. The reasons I think it was so successful is because firstly: Its interactive. While you were viewing the ad you didn’t really get the feeling your being sold something until the end of the ad. The genius behind the ads design and the way that the parts interact with each other so seamlessly is fascinating to the average human whatever age or race. You could show this ad to a baby and it would catch its interest then you could show it to a 70 year old and he would probably say that it was interesting to watch. Both people would given the option probably hit the red button to see more of the ad just like the 1/4 million people who did so. What better way to reach out to your target audience and better way than to actually allow people to respond to the ad and then give them access to more information such as a brochure or DVD while not interrupting their viewing experience.

Secondly the Cog does not look like and still doesn’t look like any other car advert I have ever seen. It is unique. It’s that uniqueness and the way that it’s so different from the ordinary that sparks interest within the minds of those who watch it they think “Oh this looks different and interesting what is it?” and start to pay attention. It did not conform to the conventions of advertising at the time and was successful because of that. People these days often switch the channel when ads play to watch another channel that doesn’t have ads because 80% of ads are ignored or do not ingrain into our memory in essence they are a waste of time.

This advert you see it and your struck by how interesting it looks visually as a complicated contraption. Its only at the end that you realize its selling you a Honda Accord? Most people will probably be so amazed by the ad they think “Oh this must be a good product lets take a look.” I think that’s why “97% of viewers rated their experience positively with an average dwell time of 2½ minutes. A significant minority spent up to 10 minutes watching the ad.” [1] This far exceeds any of the responses I have ever seen while working in the advertising industry. I have worked on ads aired on television lower budget ones but they were not even remembered and they did increase customer attention to the brand name but not this kind of direct response that people had to the Cog.

“In addition, over 10,000 people requested a DVD or brochure, equating to a response rate of 0.32% – five times the car category average.” [2]

The advert was part of the campaign The Power of Dreams and supported by a well designed modern, interactive website with a wealth of information on all of Honda’s products. So not only did people get a chance to look at the Accord but Honda used the ad to attract attention to itself and its other products. As a result The Cog is regarded as one of the most influential and successful ads of the decade.

I cannot argue against this because most of my statements are based on facts that I have learnt after studying the Cog extensively. It’s not because I like The Cog but because it was so influential and successful returning approximately 200% on investments and all off a 1 million budget. “Winning more awards from television and advertising industries than any commercial in history, including a Cannes Gold Lion, two IPA Effectiveness Awards, and a Grand Clio.” [3]There’s the proof

Moving on to the second question about how The Cog affected the advertising industry. The main effect it had on the industry was to raise the standard in advertising in the UK as a whole. They showed the UK that if you want to be successful you have to take a risk and do something different to the mainstream. Something artistic, interactive, creative and attention grabbing.

It made people within the industry stop and think about going interactive which is why we see more interactive adverts in the UK now. Which is why we are seeing rapid growth within the interactive advertising sector and will continue to see different ways in which ads will interact with the public. Some estimate that UK Interactive advertising Revenues will reach US$9.9 Billion by 2012. [4] I see a direct connection between this growth and The Cog.

A compilation of Ads in the UK form 2003

My reasons being: other advertising agencies  always keep an eye on they’re competitors and their audiences. After seeing how successful The Cog was they could not deny the effectiveness of the interactive ad. Interactive ads have been around before the Cog but to really entice large amounts of people to interact with your ad you have to have a good campaign for getting that ad to the target audience and it has to be interesting, intriguing or fun. It needs to be a much higher quality than the ads that what we were seeing  in 2003. Which were boring, safe to produce, relied too much on social conventions, dry humour and heavy brand name connotations. Quite frankly The Cog stands out like an Alien from Star Trek would if put into a London Zoo when put among these other ads and compared. It shares nothing in common.

It changed perceptions of what a good advert should be within the UK advertising industry. People started trying to think outside the box more. This has led to advancements within the advertising industry into how to make their adverts Unique. How to make them stand out, be recognized and remembered by viewers. This is probably why we see technologies like 3D being quickly snapped up and implemented in todays adverts to try and get a response similar to The Cog. However to be as successful as the Cog was they would need to do something drastic in this day and age where the advertising industry is one of the fastest evolving services within the UK market with one of the highest budgets. You wouldn’t believe the amount of money that businesses paid for the adverts shown above. Wasted cash just spent to keep their brand name alive and let people know there is a new product out there but not getting back much return from the advert.

Companies pump money into advertising firms pockets in the hope that it will keep their businesses alive or increase sales. Not realizing or caring much about how the ad is perceived by their target audience but often relying on the advertising agencies expertise in these matters which usually will want to make a safe advert with a low budget so that they can retain more profit. The Cog changed the way not only people within the industry think but also made companies more selective about how they reach out to their customers through more direct forms of advertising. Such as door to door salesmen which are highly effective means of advertising and sales combined. Interactive advertising. Also adverts that are more visually interesting and fun to watch than about the products they are selling example T-Mobiles ad campaign with people singing and dancing together in the train stations. These are things that I think The Cog set into motion.

The downside to this is that now consumers will have to put up with increasingly invasive ads that cannot be ignored because they interact with the public. Example advertising on YouTube videos near the play bar which everyone always closes but never read but they’re still there and you have to close them. I have seen research into larger scale interactive projected ads that are meant to interact with people who walk by. Most consumers don’t actually enjoy being bombarded by ads but accept it as part of everyday life in this growing universe of media that we surround ourselves in. We will increasingly have to try harder to ignore ads or reject them as they are pushed upon us. I see this as a cause of The Cogs success in interactive adverts. Even though we see a better quality of ads produced every year the majority of ads are a waste of people’s time and they would rather just watch the film that the ad is interrupting. Hopefully we will see some people create media channels without advertising so we can enjoy our programs in peace.

To conclude this I would like to state that the effect that Honda’s Cog had on its audience was to attract large amounts of attention from its viewers resulting in large amounts of sales of its products and services. New business connections, massive increase in traffic on its website. Increased respect from its customers. It also created fans of its ad campaign and products. It managed to put itself at the top of the list of best known brands of the 20th century. Quite a good result from one advert. The effects on the market was a positive influence inspiring advertising agencies to try to think outside the box and to spend more time creating a higher quality of ad instead of mass producing ads to follow the conventions. It inspired agencies to try new ways to interact with their target market resulting in increases in growth in the ways we can interact with ads. Honda & Wieden+Kennedy have continued to make ground-breaking advancements in 3D and interactive ads so they are still setting trends within the industry which other agencies either follow or are inspired by. But to this day the Cog will be remembered as the start of this positive change.


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