Your Shot: W+K London on Pushing Viewers’ Limits with Its Speed Reading Honda Spot
Manifesto spots can be a tricky business. Far too often it’s just monotonous product shots backed up with an adjective-heavy voiceover that’s battling to relay too much information in not enough time. It makes for snoozy viewing. So how do you get viewers to sit up and take notice? Wieden+Kennedy London’s latest Honda campaign actively challenges the viewer with an eclectic speed reading test that aims to echo the brand’s appetite for innovation. Pair that with striking visuals from Friend’s ManvsMachine, Dhruv Ghanekar’s pulsating soundtrack and exquisitely crafted sound design by Factory’s Anthony Moore and there you have it. Audience captured. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Wieden+Kennedy creative team Christen Brestrup, Bertie Scrase and Cal Al-Jorani to talk the trials and tribulations of pulling off such a fast-paced feat.
Be sure to try your hand at the even faster-paced spots below.
LBB> Speed reading app ‘Spritz’ launched around six months ago. Did that play much of a role in your research for this campaign? How did it affect the final outcome?
W+K> We'd kind of heard of speed reading as a technology, but didn't know much about it. When we looked into it, we found there are actually quite a number of different speed reading techniques out there, each slightly different from the other. We were very keen to create our own kind of speed reading, so we asked ourselves "how would Honda tackle the field if they were actually to take it on as a proper project?" Almost as though they were entering a race. They would do their own thing. So it's not just about text. It's about text and visuals and a rhythm/music beat. That became the thing we were most excited about actually – adding music. We initially thought it'd make it harder to read the words, but with the right track and a hell of a lot of testing and demos, we found that the music actually enhances and helps the reading.
LBB> What other factors came up in research?
W+K> Obviously every person out there has their own limits when it comes to speed and what they can take in. The hard part (one of the hard parts!) was landing on speeds that felt like they'd push the average person to their limits. That was quite a subjective part of the production.
LBB> What kind of conversations actually led to using speed-reading as a reference to overcoming perceived limits?
W+K> I think we knew from the start that we didn't want a regular manifesto film with car shots in. We thought it'd be cool to try and engage the viewer as part of the ride, and for them to 'feel' why Honda does what it does. We've worked on Honda for the past 12 months, and found out how incredible and progressive they are as a company. But would people really believe that if we just told them?
LBB> The landscape is similar (if not identical) to last year’s Inner Beauty spot. How come it served as the perfect backdrop again?
W+K> We wanted visual simplicity. A clean, ideally white, canvas so that the eye wasn't too distracted on other things. It's actually a salt flat rather than a desert. The 'Inner Beauty' thing did come up, and other locations were investigated, but we all agreed this was the best place for the idea to play out. There's also something great about doing a speed test in the home of speed tests, without actually moving. That felt like an interesting spin to us too.
LBB> ‘Keep Up’ is heavily reliant on the writing - how difficult was it to create something that was rhythmic and in time but also relayed the brand message?
W+K> We're not going to say it was easy! Once we locked down the idea, we wrote an initial script to get the idea across internally. But when it was just words on paper, it was hard to see how it could be rhythmic, even though we had broken it down into natural sections. Luckily Cal (Al-Jorani), one third of the campaign’s creative team, is also a bit of an expert at interactive design, so he created a really simple yet effective test film. It was super graphic, but once everyone saw that, we were off and rolling. Writing-wise, we obviously did a number of drafts and kept tweaking as we went. But as with most writing that is personable, the earlier stuff we wrote felt looser and warmer. So a lot of that remained in there. We wanted it to feel like Honda was talking just to you, one-to-one.
LBB> I love the music and sound design. Obviously it had to be fast-paced to fit with the overall theme of the ad, but why was drum and bass a fitting genre to helm it? Who did you work with on that side of things and what did they bring to the final production?
W+K> As mentioned earlier, we really wanted sound and music to be a big part of the overall visceral experience. We wanted that to be a really central component of Honda's take on this. And we wanted to make people properly feel something. So we did a hell of a lot of testing and got some fantastic artists and bands demo-ing for it. In the end, a music guy in India – Dhruv at Wah Wah – created a track that felt like something we'd never heard before. It gets your heart pumping, and was almost tribal in parts. We never really considered it as drum'n’bass, we see it more about being a track with different stages that each fit the particular rhythm at specific points in the film. A journey of sound. Ant at Factory then really crafted it to perfection, and obviously we're also lucky enough to have Mr Kim Papworth, aka the Daddy of Sound, to oversee stuff. It was a great combination of sound folk collaborating.
LBB> Why were ManvsMachine the right guys to bring ‘Keep Up’ to life?
W+K> Mike from MvM came into W+K a few weeks before we sent out the script, and we were really impressed at his enthusiasm, passion and craft levels. Their C4 and Film4 stuff, especially, are just works of art that you can clearly see have been properly loved and crafted. There's a real purity and graphic-ness to their work that ensures that the simple idea always shines through. We were very keen that nothing got in the way of the simple idea. No unnecessary clutter. But then again, we also wanted it to be beautiful and surprising. It was probably tough for them early on when we were trying out loads of different techniques and ways of doing it, but thankfully they stuck with us! Thankfully.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
W+K> Subjectivity. Finding the sweet spots that pushed everyone in some way. We overcame that by just having loads of meetings!