Adwatch: The Matthew Broderick Honda CR-V Super Bowl Commercial

Let’s take a moment to discuss the only thing getting more attention on the internet this week than Lana Del Rey and Susan G. Komen… Director Todd Phillips’ Super Bowl commercial for Honda’s CR-V, which stars the almost 50-year-old Matthew Broderick in a nod to the role that made him famous 25 years ago. Though the ad is set to air during Sunday’s big game, a teaser-trailer hinting at Broderick actually reprising the role of Ferris Bueller appeared online over a week ago. This led to plenty of speculation about what company the spot would be for, until Jalopnik broke the story that it was definitely Honda. As a result, Honda decided to release the commercial several days early via YouTube (although RPA, the Santa Monica ad agency behind the spot claims that releasing the “extended cut” as a web exclusive ahead of the game was always the plan, along with the :10 teaser)

But the public reaction has not been overwhelmingly positive. It seems that most “Gen Xers” distaste for brand marketing still outweighs their sense of nostalgia… or perhaps people just plain balk at the idea of Ferris Bueller pitching, much less driving, a Honda when he could be wrecking a Porsche instead. As Jason Bailey wrote in his piece for
Flavorwire “The commotion over Broderick’s Honda ad speaks not to “selling out” in general. It’s about the selling out of this character — [who] didn’t condone any “–isms” (including, presumably, capitalism).”

The few positive reactions (other than this Salon essay defending the notion of “Ferris Bueller, car salesman”)  seem to be those glad Broderick plays a fictionalized version of his off-screen self rather than a present-day Ferris Bueller. But as a huge fan of the movie familiar with its many proposed sequel premises, I must admit I would have preferred it the other way around. High school isn’t much fun, but its a lot harder to relate to a celebrity calling in sick to play hooky from ACTING (as pointed out by Videogum editor Gabe Liedman in his hilarious response to the ad).

But even with all the hype and commotion, there are two things still being overlooked.

1) The way it represents a shift toward viewing commercials as events, complete with teaser trailers. Another example of this trend can be seen in the recent Priceline commercial killing off William Shatner’s “Negotiator” spokesman character in a fiery bus accident.

Can you believe those spots have been running for 14 years? This advertising event was also preceded by a teaser, and considering its late January release, was likely originally intended as a Super Bowl ad as well. Don’t be surprised if it gets run during Sunday’s game anyway.

2) Despite all the early bad press, Middle America is going to find the Matthew Broderick ad charming, simply because Matthew Broderick is charming. End of discussion. But the Honda ad might be a little too high-concept and referential to take top honors around the water-cooler on Monday. Our bet? Volkswaggen, who stole that prize with last year’s “Darth Vader kid” and this year offer up– wait for it– a dog. Because if there’s one thing Middle America loves, its kids and dogs. They’ve even tacked on a Star Wars Cantina ending (in their own “extended version”) that sets up the debate for parents and coworkers everywhere…

Just remember: watching the Super Bowl “Just for the ads” is a cop-out, even in a year without the Packers or the Saints.