Throwback Thursday: Honda’s Viral Video Sensation Before YouTube | Tier10lab
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Throwback Thursday: Honda’s Viral Video Sensation Before YouTube | Tier10lab

Xavier Villarmarzo

April 6 marked the tenth anniversary of a Honda ad campaign that resounded worldwide despite having a limited broadcast time.

By now, many have seen “Cog,” Honda’s 2003 ad, which was part of a campaign for the seventh-generation Accord. However, it’s easy to forget that the ad, despite gaining a lot of popularity online, wasn’t even aired in the U.S. Featuring a Rube Goldberg with only parts from the Accord, the 120-second ad aired only in the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden. It also aired in its entirety only 10 times.

The ad campaign around “Cog” was developed by ad agency Wieden+Kennedy and cost £6 million ($9.2 million U.S.). Production of the ad itself cost £1 million ($1.5 million U.S.). Aside from the high cost, it was also an arduous process, as one can imagine, which used actual parts from the Accord and not one bit of computer graphics. In total, the ad took over five months of production and design work before the ad was even ready to film.

After four months of development and testing came one month of script approval. Once it was time to film, the crew holed up in a Paris studio for nearly a week, going through 605 takes before getting the entire sequence correct.

For those keeping track, that’s $1.5 million, five months of planning and 605 tries for an ad that aired only a handful of times. Those numbers are even more shocking when you find out that Honda was on board with the idea from day one, so the company knew all this going in. One would think there would have been a suit upstairs to create a hiccup in the process.

As we know, the result was well worth the time and effort, as the ad ultimately became a worldwide sensation for Honda, despite the fact that it marketed a version of the Accord that isn’t sold in most markets, including the U.S. In fact, from the day the ad aired and spread virally, mainly through email attachment at the time, visits to the Honda website reportedly quadrupled and calls to the contact center tripled.

The only downside of the ad is that it wasn’t made three years later, after the rise of YouTube. There’s no doubt the ad would have been one of the most popular videos on the web. After all, the ad was still a viral hit without YouTube. Honda could have even made an entire digital marketing campaign around “Cog.” It’s easy to picture an online display banner ad on a major website with the sequence playing on it. At the time, it would have definitely generated some clicks.

See the making of “Cog” here:


“Throwback Thursday” (#TBT) is Tier10lab’s look back at some of our favorite automotive advertising campaigns. #TBT runs the last Thursday of each month.