Give us an overview of the campaign. What is it about and what was your role in the creation?
With every Happy Honda Days holiday campaign, Honda’s aim is to hit that sweet spot where the creative is hard-working enough to showcase our best products while simultaneously laddering up to an overarching brand strategy. In short, we wanted people to unwrap the joy of driving a new Honda.
For this year’s campaign, instead of focusing on the gift itself we focused on the part of the gift that represents excitement and hope – the wrapping paper! Nothing embodies the sheer anticipation and wonder of the holidays more than the bright colorful pieces of paper that conceal the special gift inside. Combining this gift-wrapping motif with stop-motion animation, we wanted to tap into nostalgia and evoke a holiday joy that has been hardwired into us since childhood. Ultimately, we wanted to create a campaign that would allow viewers to visually unwrap the best gift of all: a Honda.
As Associate Creative Director at RPA, my role throughout the campaign was to wrangle the slew of constantly shifting ideas, focus the creative teams, and shepherd this idea from conception to delivery, helping bring it to life at every opportunity.
Was the brief for this holiday campaign any different than the usual? What challenges did that present?
It’s no secret that the airwaves are hyper-cluttered during the holiday season. And when it comes to the Auto category, that becomes even more compounded. For Happy Honda Days, we always look to stand out in unique ways – whether it’s through entertainment, music, or a unique visual look. This year was no different. We thought that leveraging wrapping paper – the unsung hero of gift-giving – would spark the imagination of our audience and help make a strong statement for the season, which is that a Honda vehicle is a wonderful gift anyone could give / receive during the holidays. One unique challenge was the request to include numerous vehicles in each spot and give them equal time, so each vignette had to be visually punchy and tell its story very quickly.
What inspired you to approach the campaign this way?
We knew from the start that we wanted this campaign to stand apart from other holiday ads and feel truly unique, so it was imperative that these spots be executed as practically as possible. Stop-motion felt like the natural choice because it gives an intimate handcrafted look, evoked a sense of nostalgic joy, and nodded to many of our favourite childhood holiday movies that were created in this way. To really get that sense of nostalgia, we employed some older animation techniques, such as zoetrope and strata-cut processes. Making the paper world in-camera not only required detailed frame-by-frame setups but precision timing, lighting, and execution.
What’s a “behind the scenes” story that only you know about?
I can’t begin to explain how incredibly time-intensive the actual shoot was. Each wrapping paper had to be designed from scratch. We went through rounds of iterations making sure there was a wide spectrum of papers to choose from. Then came the stop-motion component. Each piece of wrapping paper had to be moved frame-by-frame by an expert team of animators working on three separate stages. After 12 hours, there was only a few seconds of footage to review.
Are there any holiday ad tropes that you think should be retired by now?
When it comes to holiday auto advertising, do consumers really need to see another car with a bow sitting in a driveway?
What is your favorite holiday campaign of all time?
It’s almost cliché to say that I look forward to what the folks in the UK cook up every year – but it’s true! The work for John Lewis has been so consistent year after year. “The Long Wait” from 2011 was especially touching with its magical storytelling and a surprise waiting for you at the end, all while hitting the right note of nostalgia without feeling dated or out of touch. Plus, they always nail the soundtrack.
What can we expect from your agency in 2020?
As a full-service agency, we hope to keep making work that breaks through and connects with people. We will also continue working closely with our clients to uncover those nuggets where business and creativity intersect and really excavate those opportunities to their full potential.
What do you think the advertising industry's New Year’s resolution should be?
Not only to continue focusing on representation in our work, but to truly and authentically make inclusivity and diversity part of the agency structure. It should be baked into the DNA of every agency, and at the top of mind of everything we do, from scripts and storyboards to hiring and training. It’s not just about having diverse bodies; it’s about empowering them to create change.