Honda Accord TV spot

The Honda Accord ad, known as "Cog".
Filed under:  Brand Related | Design-Art-Photo
Comment(s): 1

The Honda Accord ad, known as "Cog," entailed months of production and design work and another several days of shooting by the London office of the Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency before the finished product was introduced in the UK in April 2003. Most of the information presented in the e-mail quoted above is accurate, although the number of takes required to complete the shoot was grossly exaggerated.

accord spot

Honda Accord's "Cog" TV spot.

There are no computer graphics or digital tricks in the film.

Everything you see really happened in real time exactly as you see it. One of the more surprising things about the ad is that it was not a cheat. Although it would have been much easier to fiddle the chain of events by using computer graphics, the seesaw and shunt of events really did happen, and in one, clean take.

Wieden+Kennedy staffers swear that no trick photography was used and that the final successful run-through was filmed in real time. The only voice in the ad is from Garrison Keillor, who intones at the end, "Isn't it nice when things just work?"

Although it is true that special effects were eschewed in favor of live action, the commercial wasn't derived from a single take. The final result comprised two takes stitched together with a brief bit of CGI.

The Honda ad was created without special effects. It was split into two continuous takes only because no studio was big enough to accommodate the entire sequence. The only post-production trickery is the lighting on the car doors at the end.

The sequence of events in the advert is actually split into two shots -- shooting the whole thing in one go would have been too expensive. "It was a damage limitation idea to snip it into two [parts]," says Rob Steiner, head of television at Wieden & Kennedy, the agency responsible for the advert. (Still not found the join? The first section ends and the second one begins at the one minute mark when an exhaust box rolls off to the right of the screen. Some clever editing bridges the two parts.)

The crew spent weeks shooting night and day. The film cost six million dollars and took three months to complete including a full engineering of the sequence.

We couldn't confirm the $6 million figure (possibly it's a misreading of the report that the entire advertising campaign cost £6 million), and news articles indicate the entire production was considerably more than three months in the planning.

Filming was done over four near-sleepless days in a Paris studio, after one month of script approval, two months of concept drawings and a further four months of development and testing.

It took five months of production and design work before "Cog" was ready to shoot. Then the real work began. In the course of a week in a Paris studio, crews agonized through 605 takes.

In addition, it's two minutes long so every time Honda airs the film on British television, they're shelling out enough dough to keep any one of us in clover for a lifetime. Honda executives figure the ad will soon pay for itself simply in "free" viewings (Honda isn't paying a dime to have you watch this commercial!).

We couldn't find any information about how much Honda pays to air this commercial on TV (ad rates would vary depending upon a variety of factors anyway), but the Daily Telegraph gave the total cost of the ad campaign as £6 million. As the message notes, Honda is probably more than making up for their large investment with all the publicity the commercial is generating.

Since the ad broke on April 6, visits to Honda's Web site have quadrupled, and calls to the contact center have tripled.

When the ad was pitched to senior executives, they signed off on it immediately without any hesitation - including the costs.

The corporate suits at Honda liked the idea immediately, despite the high costs of production and the fact that it was more than twice as long, and therefore twice as pricey, as normal car ads.

There are six and only six hand-made Accords in the world. To the horror of Honda engineers, the filmmakers disassembled two of them to make the film.

Two hand-made pre-production Accords were needed for the exercise, one of them being ripped apart and cannibalised to the considerable distress of Honda engineers.

(The two Honda Accords were "hand-assembled" because they were new models, and pre-production versions were the only ones available at the time the commercial was produced.)

Everything you see in the film (aside from the walls, floor, ramp, and complete Honda Accord) are parts from those two cars.

By the end of the months-long production, the film had used so many spare parts that two articulated lorries were required to take them away.

Some of the original ideas, such as one stunt involving an airbag, had to be dropped owing to a shortage of new Accord parts.

When the ad was shown to Honda executives, they liked it and commented on how amazing computer graphics have gotten. They fell off their chairs when they found out it was for real.

The bigshots at Honda's world headquarters in Japan, when shown Cog for the first time, replied that yes, it was very clever, and how impressive trick photography was these days. When told that it was all real, they were astonished.

In answer to the most frequently asked question about the commercial, the sequence where the tires roll up a slope looks particularly impressive but is very simple. Steiner says that there is a weight [in each] tire and when the tire is knocked, the weight is displaced and in an attempt to rebalance itself, the tire rolls up the slope.

In May 2003, filmmakers Peter Fischli and David Weiss threatened legal action against Honda over similiarities between the "Cog" commercial and "The Way Things Go," a 30-minute film they produced in 1987 involving "100 feet of physical interactions, chemical reactions, and precisely crafted chaos worthy of Rube Goldberg or Alfred Hitchcock."


There is one thing that might add even more shock and awe to it, not that that the idea was a 1:1 rippoff from Fischli & Weiss, a swiss artist duo, but, they did it in 1987 with an almost zero budget, and it is 30 minutes long.

honda logo 2

Honda logo.


Honda Accord's "Cog" TV spot

Honda ads   
Honda brochures   
Honda Civic Hybrid : 2005   
Honda Step Bus : 2007   Styling concept takes "man maximum, machine minimum" philosophy to the extreme
Honda Remix : 2006   
Honda S3000 : 2008   
Honda Insight : 2008   On sale in the spring of 2009.
Honda S600 : 1965   The first "mass marketed" Honda.
Honda Element EX : 2009   Restyled Element offers new high-tech, functional features.
Honda October 2008 sales   A a decline of 28.4 percent versus October 2007.
Honda Insight to Introduce Ecological Drive Assist System   In Spring 2009.
Honda S2000's final year will be 2009   Segment-defining roadster won numerous accolades during its 9-year run.
Honda Element "Dog" : 2009   
Honda FCX Clarity Named 2009 World Green Car   
Honda Insight Becomes First Hybrid Vehicle to Rank as Best-Selling Vehicle in Japan   
Honda   Official site
Advertise on Cartype
Instagram Vimeo Youtube Twitter Facebook
THE "1900's" BOOK.
Each decade seems to have its own stylistic language, and this issue showcases logos, ads, cars, companies and products (and their typographical sensibilities) from the early 1900s.

Jrop Roadside
Car Shipping Companies
Auto Transport Quotes
Vehicle Transportation


Much of the material on this website is copyrighted. Original articles appearing herein are subject to copyright. Please don't copy stuff from the site without asking; it may belong to someone! Any trademarks appearing on this site are the sole property of the registered owners. No endorsement by trademark owners is to be construed. The products, brand names, characters, related slogans and indicia are or may by claimed as trademarks of their respective owners. Every effort has been made whenever possible to credit the sources. The use of such material falls under the Fair Use provisions of intellectual property laws.