After a year hiatus, Honda is returning to the Super Bowl with a 60-second commercial for the 2017 Ridgeline truck that stars a herd of sheep singing the Queen classic "Somebody to Love."
The commercial, scheduled to air during the third quarter, touts the return of the mid-size pick up truck to the market this spring and showcases its truck-bed audio system.
Created by Honda agency of record RPA and directed by Super Bowl veteran Bryan Buckley, the commercial, "A New Truck to Love," opens on a Ridgeline owner dropping sheep off to graze in a meadow. As soon he drives away with his herding dog in tow, the flock begins to sing the 1976 classic. They pause their harmonizing when their unsuspecting owner returns to unload a few more sheep and resume once he’s safely out of earshot again.
The ad ends with a shot of the truck parked in front of a barn and a voiceover that introduces the Ridgeline, with its unique audio system, as "a new truck to love." When the camera pans over, it’s revealed that the narrator is the dog seen earlier in the spot, seated on a bale of hay, and talking to the camera.
"We wanted to make a statement that Ridgeline is back, but also show off a key feature that points to Honda innovation," said Tom Peyton, assistant vice president of advertising and marketing at American Honda Motor Co. "After kicking around some concepts, singing sheep and talking dogs seemed right up the Super Bowl’s alley."
While the team decided early on to have the sheep sing the Queen song, the choice was cemented after seeing the track’s popularity on iTunes surge after one of the contestants on "The Voice" performed the song. "It just reaffirmed that it is still a popular song across all ages," said Peyton. "It works, and the line of ‘somebody to love’ or ‘truck to love’ works pretty good, too."
The Super Bowl commercial will be supported with a digital campaign that begins with the release of the spot on Honda’s YouTube channel and will include home page takeovers of ESPN and MSN on Super Bowl Sunday and the day after. Short videos featuring the dog in the spot will appear on social channels before and after the game.
Honda hopes the music-driven spot will renew interest in the truck after the carmaker stopped its production with the 2014 model. The Ridgeline was introduced in 2005 and achieved some success, said Peyton, but its "unique" boxy styling proved to be a challenge for the market. "We wanted to be different; some people liked it, some people didn’t," he said, adding that the truck’s availability in only four wheel drive also made it a more expensive option for some consumers.
The redesigned pickup, revealed at the North American International Detroit Auto show last month, is offered in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive and carries more traditional styling, "but it’s still loaded with innovations that make us stand out," he added, pointing to the truck-bed audio system highlighted in the Super Bowl spot, as well as the in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate.
The light truck segment is important for Honda, as car manufacturers strive to take advantage of the increased consumer demand for SUVs and trucks, which has been propelled by low gas prices. Sales for Honda’s light trucks, which include crossovers, SUVs and minivans, have been arguably strong, Peyton said. "The mid-size truck segment is growing and is a great place for us to be well positioned in."
According to Peyton, the new Ridgeline is aimed at the 40- to 50-year-old suburban driver who wants the comforts of an SUV and likes to camp or tailgate, or needs the small-haul capability provided by the pickup — someone like an architect who has a ranch as a second home.
"At the end of the day, there is a mystique and a psychographic that goes along with buying a truck instead of buying an SUV," he said. "When you have a pickup truck in the US, there’s a little bit of the adventurous cowboy mentality that a lot of people enjoy."
Honda’s last Super Bowl appearance in 2014 was dedicated to a safety message humorously delivered by Bruce Willis and Fred Armisen. And in 2013, Honda advertised its CR-V SUV with a send up of "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" in a commercial starring Matthew Broderick using the car to goof around on his day off.