Honda Motorbikes Give You Wings

LOS ANGELES After years of leading creative on Toyota vehicles while at Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, Steve Rabosky has stamped his signature on a Honda campaign, the first brand-elevation effort for Honda’s motorbikes in recent memory.

“[Dailey] had been doing running-footage-type spots,” said Rabosky, president and CCO at Interpublic Group’s Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif. “It’s probably the first pure branding television since Wieden + Kennedy did that spot for Honda motor scooters with Lou Reed and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ a long time ago.”

The 30-second spot, which broke last week along with print, shows a man stuck in an urban tunnel traffic jam. Sprouting red wings reminiscent of the Honda division’s logo, he flies from the car, shatters through the tunnel and lands on a Honda cruiser, speeding off beyond the traffic. The tagline is, “Free yourself.”

The spot was produced by Kevin Roth and directed by Kinka Usher. Brickyard, Santa Monica, Calif., handled the special effects.

“It had to be a simple idea: Riding a cruiser is the closest thing to flying without getting on a plane. And the spot stresses the emotional quality of freedom,” said Rabosky.

Though it trails Harley-Davidson in cruisers, Honda is the leading full-line manufacturer of motorbikes; in fact, Honda so dominates bike sales, no specific call to action was necessary, Rabosky said. “We are going to sell the category to a certain extent—and Honda will get the lion’s share of sales. They’re not worrying about Honda versus Kawasaki,” he said.

The imagery is intended to bring younger people into a recently flat category dominated by 35- to 45-year-old men.

A campaign for Honda’s street racer bikes, the youth brand, is coming out in July. “That is more image oriented,” Rabosky said.

A new spread for the Foreman 4×4 ES shows a young rider admiring the ATV in a natural-history museum display. The copy reads, “Observe the dominant species.” The tagline is, “Honda: Best on Earth.”

American Honda Motors, based in Torrance, Calif., spent $20 million on ads for its ATVs and motorbikes in 2006, per TNS Media Intelligence.