The idea of competitive persuasion is a good place to start this week's column. "Aha," you say, "isn't that the nub of the business we're in?" Well yes, but ask yourself how many ads you've seen recently that were competitively persuasive? Me, I've seen ads that are competitive, I've seen ads that are persuasive, I've seen ads that are mere announcements and I've seen ads that just bellow at you, but ads that are competitively persuasive are few and far between.
A rare exception is the new Wieden & Kennedy ad for the Honda Accord.
I'm not very interested in cars (I drive an Audi A6 - 'nuff said). Insofar as I even thought about Honda, I considered it a utilitarian marque, competent and well-made, but dull. I couldn't imagine any circumstances under which I would even consider buying one. Another Audi would do fine.
This ad, however, has completely changed my view of Honda. I want an Accord, and I'd like it quite soon. As far as I'm concerned, it's become an object of desire. The last ad that made me go "I want one and I want it now" was for the iMac, and the last car ad to do the same for me was Y&R's Steve McQueen/Bullitt hommage for the Ford Puma. Both, I think, are fine examples of the competitive persuasion I'm referring too.
Technically, the Honda ad is a dazzling tour de force, involving 85 Accord components, five months' planning and 606 takes. It is, I suppose, best described as resembling one of those Guinness World of Records-style domino collapses. Only this time instead of dominoes we have Honda components.
The ad starts as a cog rolls slowly down a plank, bumping into another cog and setting off a chain reaction that culminates two minutes later in a fully finished Accord estate edging down a ramp. Along the way we see wheels, springs, flywheels, tipping seats, walking windscreen wipers, oil and exhaust boxes.
Marvel at the intricacy and precision of it all as the exhaust swings across the bonnet, taps a nut, which taps another nut, which taps yet a third before it rolls down the bonnet to keep the momentum going.
But don't get distracted by the technical razzle-dazzle, brilliant though it undoubtedly is. Concentrate instead on the message, which goes something like this: Honda's passion is engineering, and this intricate film demonstrates the obsessive detail that goes into the way it builds its cars. Quality.
Now, of course, Honda isn't the first car manufacturer to claim this (Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes and BMW have all pursued this line), nor will it be the last. But I've never seen it demonstrated in a way that is so compelling and, at the same time, rewarding. It's the kind of film that bears endless repeats.
Not the least of its virtues is the complete absence of corporate wank.
Normally such ads are accompanied by naggingly boastful voiceovers of the "Here at MegaMotorcorp, our engineers never sleep" variety. Here there's only ambient sound for 110 seconds, before Garrison Keillor chips in to observe in his gentle and self-deprecating way that "Isn't it nice when things just work?" I assume Honda and W&K had the good sense to realise that the ad spoke for itself and needed no embellishment. Isn't it nice when ads just do that?
Dead cert for a Pencil? You bet.
File under ... P for persuasive.
What would the chairman's wife say? "Thank God you stopped making those
dreadful Swindon ads."