Honda – Problem Playground (with behind the scenes footage)

Here’s the latest campaign from Wieden + Kennedy, London for Honda featuring an impressive display of “problems” solved by the resourceful Honda engineering team. So far this whole campaign is now my favorite for the year. From their entertaining interactive site found at ProblemPlayground.com to everything that went into the making of the spot itself. This piece is part of a campaign to introduce their new zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell car called the FCX Clarity. In order to do so, they decided to give us a little insight into what type of team Honda uses to come up with these “problem solving” machines. The car itself isn’t the only testament to the engineering prowess of their team, as the people you see in the spot are all real-life members of Honda’s engineering squad. It begins by displaying someone attempting to solve a Rubix cube only to pan out to an entire team working to build an abstract block MADE of solved Rubix cubes…not only that but it’s made to resemble the engine they designed for the car. Inspired after completing this task the team scurries off to then try and solve various other “seemingly impossible” challenges to represent what these poor folks had to go through in order to accomplish what they’ve done. Watch it for yourself and you’ll see… agree with me or not, i don’t mind, but I think it is a perfect example of using the brand itself to sell its products, rather than some cheap marketing ploys designed to entice consumer desire. This seems to be a definite follow-up to their somewhat controversial Honda – Cog commercial that involved a group of their engineers and 606 takes (no cgi, no special effects, just a bunch of nerds with a passion for whatever projects they’re assigned to).

I rarely do this, but in this case feel it is almost my duty to shower my compliments to whomever was in charge of the Information Architecture/User Experience for the website. It’s fast loading, clean, links are easy to read/navigate, and best of all it enables you to download the spot as well as the making of the commercial in a variety of formats. No typical text links either… decently sized icons align themselves with each download option making it simple to find the version you desire (it even includes an iPod version). Navigating back to the home page was a snap, and although the website includes sound effects, there was no annoying music/ongoing sounds playing if I were to temporarily stop using the site. Nothing is more annoying than opening a site in your browser with the intention of going through it later, only to become thoroughly annoyed by some auto-loading music/sound that emerges from the minimized browser.

The site also features an interactive replica of the outdor puzzle from the spot, educational sections about Honda’s Solar Refueling Station (plug in your mic and watch what happens). The integration of the site with the actual campaign is flawless – Remember that rubix cube engine that they created in the spot? On the website it becomes an interactive savings calculator as well as a unique way of showing off testimonial videos (which only appear once you solve the web-version of the cube). So few campaigns are able to achieve that, which is why you’ve seen article after article over the past year about advertising agencies needing to adapt to meet interactive capabilities… I think the London office may have a leg up on that topic just so long as they can continue to produce fully integrated campaigns like this one.

That said and done, you then you come to the age-old issue of how to actually connect the consumer with the dealer. Here they’ve chosen to include tabbed links at the bottom of each page which let you download the brochure, book a test drive, or even just find your local dealer. Clicking on them and then attempting to click back to the site without using the giant “X” causes slight image overlay problems, but selecting another tab and/or the convenient footer anchors located in each corner reverts the page back to normal. With Microsoft’s recent decision to start changing the way their browsers view code, this being the only issue I could come across makes for an impressive QA.

So again, my hats off to you – mr. or mrs. interaction designer, it’s a shame they don’t ever list credits for website initiatives, all other forms of ad media get the credit rolls….(so if you read this or know who designed the site, please contact me and I’ll make sure to add you to the post for proper credit).

As I mentioned earlier, the site also includes a “making of” video for the piece, which can be viewed by clicking here – The Making of Honda’s Problem Playground. I always enjoy it when an agency gives their personal insight into the thought process/design of a campaign. It’s the ultimate way of not only holding those involved accountable, but also informs the consumer about the story behind the product, and in this case, that story happened to be their staff of creative engineers who happen to have a knack for solving complex problems. When done correctly, this conveyance of the story (especially if it is a “human story”) creates a sense of confidence that is typically out of grasp in normal :30 spots. So kudos for the move on that one.

Here’s a behind the scenes shot of them getting the giant jigsaw puzzle pieces ready for the shoot:

Honda Problem Playground/></p>
<p>Tony Davidson + Kim Papworth were the CD’s for the project with Sam Heath/Frank Ginger as the copy/art direction team. This commercial was directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet (extra points in my book for having a cool name) for <a href=Partizan and was produced by Russell Curtis (Rachel Hough served as agency producer). Post production was done by, you guessed it, The Mill with Barnsley getting the Flame artist byline. Special Note: You know you are a bad-ass if you’re getting shout-outs for your visual FX work on random forums.. in this case the macrumors.com forums. Barnsley, I think that means you’ve finally achieved uber-stardom in your industry, congrats….
This clip was edited by Bill Smeadley from Work (which brings a whole new meaning when he tells people he’s going to Work in the morning).

Here’s a shot of the engineers getting setup to start on the outside puzzle:

Honda Problem Playground Engineers Puzzle/></p>
<p>I know you’re wondering what the soundtrack music is, and well, if it sounded familiar then you most likely have seen Wes Anderson’s Movie – <a href=Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzue as it was taken from the original score/soundtrack and cut to work with this spot.
The song is called Ping Island and was originally composed for the movie by devo member and popular film composer – Mark Mothersbaugh (who does most of the soundtracks for Wes Anderson flicks). You can download the album here – Soundtrack to Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or just the song here: Mark Mothersbaugh – Ping Island

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