Honda's Ad for Fuel Cell Vehicle Features Bodiless Singing Children

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Ad Age

Honda and agency-of-record RPA have once again tapped visual effects guru Pes to create an ad -- but this time the artist is using live action, rather than the stop-motion technique for which he is known. The spot for the automaker's Clarity hydrogen fuel cell sedan features a choir of floating children's heads that are meant to symbolize the hydrogen molecules that fuel the car.

The campaign -- which was inspired by Honda's long-running global environmental slogan "Blue Skies for Our Children" -- represents the automaker's largest marketing investment to date for a fuel cell vehicle, said Steve Center, VP of the environmental business development office at American Honda Motor Co.

The new Clarity is available for lease in California at 12 Honda dealerships in the Bay Area, Southern California and Sacramento. The state is the most advanced market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. As a result, Honda is targeting California with the campaign. The 60-second TV spot will air in Los Angeles during the Academy Awards on Feb. 26. Media buys are also slated for other California markets including San Francisco and Sacramento.

California had 20 retail hydrogen fueling stations operating as of June 17, with about two to three stations added each month, according to a July report by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Rather than using a combustion engine, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are powered by a chemical reaction, with water being the only emission, as is explained by this instructional video by the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

The Honda Clarity boasts "the highest EPA driving-range rating of any zero-emission vehicle in America, including fuel cell and battery electric vehicles, with a 366-mile range and fuel-economy rating of 68 combined MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent)," according to Honda.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are a niche but promising market for automakers. California had 331 fuel cell electric vehicles registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles as of July, according to the state EPA report. The report projected that the state's on-road fuel-cell electric vehicle population will grow to 13,500 in 2019 and to 43,600 vehicles in 2022.

"The nice thing about a fuel-cell car is we are able to have a range and convenience levels that are comparable to internal combustion engine cars today," Mr. Center said, noting that the new Clarity refuels in just three to five minutes. "This to us is really the ultimate mobility solution."

Pes, whose full name is Adam Pesapane, last worked with Honda on a stop-motion ad last year for the Ridgeline pickup. He earlier collaborated with the automaker on a 2015 ad called "Paper" that weaved together roughly 3,000 hand-drawn illustrations using stop-motion filming that took viewers through a paper-flipping, historical journey of Honda products.

The new ad is called "Thinking About Tomorrow" and includes a riff on the classic Fleetwood Mac song "Don't Stop." The children that make up the choir in the ad are meant to represent singing hydrogen molecules. Each child was filmed individually using choreographed motion-control cameras and orbiting spotlights, according to Honda. "These scenes were then digitally composited with special effects to create a musical subatomic galaxy," Honda stated.

Honda's campaign comes soon after Toyota used a local Super Bowl ad in California to tout its Mirai fuel cell vehicle. The spot, titled "Daisy" by Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, ran in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Honda's campaign includes five videos meant to educate consumers about the benefits of hydrogen and the Clarity vehicle, including the two below.

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