ITV Knows Nostalgia Works

Isn’t It Nice When Things Just Work

ITV People's Ad Break // Honda


The UK’s lockdown has seen a bored public undertake a dizzying variety of creative projects. From exercising for charity, through homemade World Cups and fake Eurovisions, to all manner of arts and crafts, people have risen to the challenge of amusing themselves at home.

That’s what ITV is celebrating with this week’s People’s Ad Break – a Saturday night takeover with home-made cover versions of famous ads (they were aired at 8.45pm during Britain’s Got Talent). We tested all of them in advance, partly so we could use the best one as this week’s Ad Of The Week.

And what a winner it is! A charming remake of one of the most technically accomplished ads of the last 20 years, Honda’s 2003 “Cog”. The original 120-second Honda ad took 7 months to make on a £1million budget. We don’t have the comparable figures for the 2020 “Cog”… safe to say it’s a bit lower, even if they used very expensive bananas.

In the original, it’s the elegance and inventiveness of the car-part machine that hypnotises the viewer. In the remake, you’re cheering along with the creators as they try and pull off something lovely but unlikely. That’s why it scores so well emotionally – getting 4.6 Stars.

It’s free advertising for Honda, but the point of the People’s Ad Break is to turn a unique spotlight on the British public and how they’ve coped with lockdown, and in that sense every ad that will be shown on Friday is a winner. (A late entry this week on behalf of Specsavers by a gentleman in the North-East sadly missed the deadline.)

Is there something for brands to learn from this remake, though? Of course! One of the themes in Orlando Wood’s Lemon is how often effective advertising with right-brained appeal relies on cultural references – nods to classic films or TV, for instance. The remade “Cog”, and all the other ads in the People’s Ad Break, are great examples of this principle in action.

Brands have their own rich heritage to draw on, and they should do that – but they also have the whole of culture open to them to play with. The People’s Ad Break is a way of recognising when great ads, like “Cog”, have crossed the divide to become part of that culture in their own right.