Honda Employs Influencer Marketing Strategies in 2018 Super Bowl Ad

By: Thomas Hughes

In the third quarter of Super Bowl LII on Sunday, a Honda commercial titled “The Helpful Hunt” aired in Southern California, in which a Honda spokesman in a light blue shirt walks on screen, faces the camera, and says “Hello.”

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The greeting is followed by 24 seconds of silence in which a variety of strange scenes take place behind him, including a man crossing the street in slow motion while a nearby woman walks in regular time. However, in the very back of the frame, a website can be made out on the side of a delivery truck, declaring “TheHelpfulHunt.com.”

After going to the website, viewers found themselves at the beginning of a puzzle in which the strange background events from the commercial served as clues. Upon completing the puzzle, they were  informed that they had  moved the company one step closer to donating a Honda to a local family in need. Consumers thus walked away feeling accomplished for completing the challenge and satisfied in the intent, both of which emotions are then associated with Honda.

The commercial itself communicates nothing. The residence of San Diego weren’t falling out of their seats laughing over a silly character, and the people of Los Angeles weren’t moved to tears by a touching story.

Over the course of the last five years, television commercials have begun to shift away from the old model of vague storylines and blatant product placement to a new form of mass advertising that encourages engagement. In 2008, E-Trade aired their baby-centered commercial during Super Bowl XLII, encouraging their audience to interact with a 1-800 number as well as their website in one of the first popular instances of this strategy. During the following year’s Super Bowl, Cash4Gold.com drove enormous traffic to their website with an iconic fast-paced advertisement with Ed McMahon and MC Hammer. By funneling interested viewers to websites and apps, companies such as Honda are better able to interact with their consumers through graphics, games, and limited time sales, while also collecting quality data on when and why users left their platform. The most prevalent form of this advertising is influencer marketing.

With television commercials, viewers can be unfocused, uninterested, or even recording earlier and fast forwarding as an ad that cost money to create and air goes right by. On social media platforms such as YouTube or Instagram, consumers are instead only watching the creators that interest them, meaning they care what these “influencers” have to say. There is a trust between creator and consumer on social media that can be found nowhere else in the modern marketing landscape. While TV feels massive and artificial, individual content creation for social platforms has maintained the “personal” atmosphere.