Honda's skydiving footage is the answer to critics of live ads

Blimey, we're a cynical lot in marketing.

The legions of admirers of Honda's live ad filling a Channel 4 break have been balanced by an equal number of detractors, with objectors claiming the ad wasn't impressive/difficult/original enough.

What do these people want? A live heart transplant, while the surgeon recites Paradise Lost and the patient sings I Will Survive?

No, it wasn't the first live TV ad. There have been loads since the earliest days of television, right up to recent executions from eBay and, two fascinating examples from online brands.

EBay used "liveness" to demonstrate real-time auctions and to encourage bidding, while's live ad was the culmination of a series of game show-style advertorials, aired over one evening on ITV, where respondents were paired up during the live ad. For both brands, the decision to go live was driven by wanting audience participation.

By contrast, Honda's choice to go live was all about bringing the brand proposition of "difficult is worth doing" to life. If you think that organising a live transmission from Spain, featuring a troupe of skydivers, isn't difficult, then you are plainly bonkers - and that's without considering the enormous professional challenges for the Honda marketers, their agencies and Channel 4.

So a tick for the "difficult" bit. How about the "worth doing" bit? Well I was gripped, along with 2.2 million others, and the press coverage alone must have repaid the investment many times over. Those people who have described the ad as "just a PR stunt" clearly do not understand integrated communications.

Broadcasters really understand the appeal of live programmes, both to encourage participation and to heighten excitement. And now online is adding to the fun, by enabling conversations about what's being viewed to expand from the sofa into real-time cyberspace. Expect more.

What I really loved about the Honda ad, on top of its continuing commitment to creativity and its extraordinary chutzpah, was the way it launched the main TV campaign.

It's not the first time brands have created announcement advertising to herald the start of a much-anticipated TV ad. M&S has taken newspaper ads on the day its new TV ad breaks, and Sony has uploaded special footage to seed an online viral.

But Honda pushed the boat out, used telly, and did so in a spectacular way.

To its critics, I say: envy is an ugly emotion.

To Honda itself, it's a big fat thank you.

- Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox

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