These Eerily Lifelike Crash Test Dummies Aren’t Quite What They Seem

Acura humanizes its commitment to safety

Acura puts a fresh, unsettling spin on the crash-test-dummy concept in "The Test," an unorthodox but riveting minute-long film by Mullen Lowe that touts the automaker's safety record.

Set in an eerie crash-testing lab with ominous ambient tones playing in the background, the spot opens with a technician wheeling four life-like figures toward an Acura MDX. At first, as he hefts them into the vehicle and carefully poses their limbs and heads, they appear to be incredibly lifelike crash test dummies. After a few moments, however, we realize these are, in fact, human beings who manage to remain expressionless and incredibly still.

And the "driver" looks suspiciously like the crash-test technician. Just what is going on here?

We get our answer about the same time the vehicle collides with the wall. It's a logical reveal that makes sense in context and really drives home Acura's message. Still, why take such an unorthodox approach to announce you've earned top safety ratings?

"Most ads that use crash test dummies are very technical and cold in nature," a style Acura chose to upend in favor of a more emotional experience, Leila Cesario, national advertising manager at Acura, tells AdFreak.

"We are communicating the seriousness of safety and the trust that people place in their vehicles when they put their families in their cars and send them off to work and school. This is an incredible responsibility that we fully understand and experience ourselves. In this spot, we are punctuating this emotional drive behind our safety achievements."

Overall, "The Test," backed by a broader digital campaign created with Razorfish, earns high marks for taking familiar themes in an unexpected direction. The pervasive strangeness of the commercial, though—anyone feeling like a trip to Madame Tussauds?—might blunt its impact for some folks, especially on first viewing.


Spot: Acura "The Test"

Client: American Honda Motor Co.
Jon Ikeda, Vice President and General Manager, Acura
Leila Cesario, Manager, National Advertising, Acura

Agency: Mullen Lowe
Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker
Executive Creative Director: Margaret Keene
Art Director: Paul Foulkes
Writer: Chris Ford
Producer: Dustin Oliver
Senior Business Affairs Manager: Davina Turnbull
Asst. Business Affairs Manager: Nickie Kolb
Music Supervisor: Danica Bates
Director of Art Production: Kate Shoults
Senior Art Producer: Alison Brislin
Managing Director: Cameron McNaughton
Group Account Director: Nicole Neopolitan 
Account Director: Courtney Calvert
Senior Account Executive: Kylie Mugg
Product Knowledge Director: Curtis Millward

Production Company: The Corner Shop
Director: Peter Thwaites
Executive Producer: Anna Hashmi
Producer: Jay Shapiro
DP: Joost Van Gelder

Editorial Company: Work
Executive Producer: Marlo Baird
Editor: Bill Smedley
Assistant Editor: Ben Foushée
Producer: Barbara Healy

Postproduction Company: Electric Theatre Collective
Executive Producer: Kate Hitchings
Set Supervisor: Ryan Knowles
Lead Flame Artist: Giles Cheetham
Matte Painting: Dave Gibbons
Colorist: Aubrey Woodiwiss

Sound Company: 740 Sound
Executive Producer: Scott Ganary
Mixer: Stephen Dickson, Larry Winer
Sound Designer: Chris Pinkston, Rob Marshall
Sound Design Producer: Jeff Martin
Associate Producer: Geena Richard

Track: Ex Machina – "Skin"
Composers: Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow
Shane Casting:
Casting Agent: Shane Liem

Digital Banners and Landing Page

Agency: Razorfish
VP, Group Creative Director: Mike Frank
Associate Creative Director: Kate Foley
Art Director: Caitlin Bauler
Senior Copywriter: Anne Butcher
Senior Art Director: Can Kadioglu
Art Director: Chris Kitahara
Senior Copywriter: Newton Stern
Content Strategist: Jonathan Baker
Strategy Director: Evan Zeller
Associate Motion Director: Carlos Barillas
Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Ryan Daly
Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Shamim Toufighian
VP, Technology: Ron Davis
Senior Technical Architect: Udayan Shukla
Senior Functional Analyst: Ahmed BenAssaf
Senior Software Engineer: Pratik Sheth
Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Johnatan Garcia
Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Jose Lombana
Associate QA Manager: David Hua
QA Analyst: Danny Ta
QA Analyst – Luis Garzon
Senior Director Social Media – Jerry Lawrence
Social Media Strategist – Zachary Cheek
VP, Client Partner- Liz Swanson
Account Director – Amy Kelly
Account Supervisor – Erik Troedsson
Program Director – Rosie Rathburn
Senior Project Manager – Ryan Schmidt

Join the foremost brand marketers, such as Marc Pritchard, Brad Hiranaga, Kory Marchisotto and more, for Brandweek Masters Live on Sept. 14-17. Secure your pass and learn from the brand masters.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.