Can hate be good? A happy trip down memory lane courtesy of Honda

Can hate be good? Can hate be great? Can hate be something we don’t hate?

Those are the brilliantly thought-provoking questions posed by Weiden & Kennedy UK in their delicious 2004 commercial for Honda featuring surely one of the best advertising tunes if not THE best, ever written. The campaign launched Honda’s first diesel engine. Enjoy (and get the kids along if you have any)…

Hate something. Change something. Make something better-r-r-r…….Such noble sentiments expressed so joyfully simply! This is an ad that feels like it made the world a better place. One of the writers, Michael Russoff, said:

Grrr” had a great response when it broke. Before long, people were whistling it in the street. Most memorably, there was a call from someone who ran a drug rehabilitation clinic. She loved the philosophy of “Hate Something, Change Something,” and felt it could inspire the group of drug addicts she was working with. Many people think advertising is shallow because there are so many shallow ads out there. “Grrr” says you can be thoughtful without being worthy. You can say something interesting and be entertaining about it. If people are going to give you a big budget to go and make something, you should be doing something useful with that. You have an opportunity to change the way people think about something.”

The idea for the ad originated with a comment made by Honda lead engineer Kenichi Nagahiro who had long resisted diesel on the grounds that the engines were smelly, noisy and bad for the environment. In fact he once said he hated diesel engines. So, when he finally designed one, it was destined to be quiet, clean and environmentally friendly.

The campaign, called Grrr, centred around a 90-second television and cinema advert, but also comprised newspaper and magazine advertisements, radio commercials, free distributed merchandise, and an internet presence which included an online game, e-mail advertising, and an interactive website. It’s sung by Garrison Keillor, American author and voice artist, along with its Wieden + Kennedy writers and whistlers Michael Russoff, Sean Thompson and Richard Russell, under the band name “Be Nice to the Pigeons”.

Grrr was both a critical and financial success. It was the most-awarded campaign of 2005, sweeping awards ceremonies within the television and advertising industries, including the year’s Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, from which it took home the Film Grand Prix—considered the most prestigious honour in the advertising industry. The campaign proved popular with the British public, and Honda reported that its brand awareness figures more than doubled in the period following the campaign’s debut. Overall sales of Honda products within the UK increased by more than 35%, and sales of diesel-engine Accords shot from 518 units in 2003 to 21,766 units in 2004.  Adweek magazine picked the ad as the overall commercial of the decade in 2009. The story behind the making of the ad can be seen here.

The test of a great ad? I showed my kids this ad when they were very young and when they got computers they both asked for the ad to be put on their hard drives. And you know what? All these years later they still play and love the ad.

And so do I.




3 Responses to “Can hate be good? A happy trip down memory lane courtesy of Honda”

  1. Says:

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  2. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  3. Hey thanks for the kind comments. Glad you enjoy the blog

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