Iconic Ads: Honda – The Power of Dreams “Grrr”

Grrr was part of The Power of Dreams – the overarching theme which ran across all advertising campaigns especially in USA & Europe.

Honda UK sought to advertise its newly announced i-CTDi diesel engines in the UK in 2004.


The “Power of Dreams” campaign was launched in 2002. The concept was pitched by W+K, who envisioned the “Power of Dreams” becoming a global promotion tool for the Honda brand. Honda product sales in Europe had been declining since 1998 under the previous campaign (“Do You Have a Honda?”), and Nissan had surpassed Honda as the number two Japanese automaker (behind Toyota). The idea, based on the company’s Japanese motto “Yume No Chikara” (“See one’s dreams”), was developed to make it “omnipresent” in the public eye. To that end, the first pieces of the campaign, which featured the Honda ASIMO robot and the slogan “Power of Dreams,” included appearances across multiple media.

Following the initial wave of ASIMO-themed ads, W+K launched a series of “dream-based” campaigns for numerous Honda products, including Pecking Order, Seats, and Bus Lane.

The idea

The idea for the new Grrr ad came from an incident about Honda’s head engine designer, Kenichi Nagahiro. Nagahiro despised diesel engines’ noise, smell, and appearance, and when asked to build the company’s first diesel engine, he refused unless he was permitted to start from scratch.

This “positive hate” inspiration was turned into a song and an integrated campaign by Michael Russoff, Sean Thompson, and Richard Russell, a W+K copywriting team. After they finished the song, they prepared a series of rough storyboards and pitched them along with a trio of guitarists to Honda UK marketing director Simon Thompson, 

Honda gave the project the go-ahead. W+K was granted a budget of £600,000 for the production which was to last 6 months

The group then began looking for a film director. Adam Foulkes and Alan Smith, an animation team recognised for their earlier work on Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and the BBC animated sketch show Monkey Dust, were hired.  Grrr was produced by UNIT9.

When it came to the execution, Smith & Foulkes worked tirelessly to create a world of positive hate in which bunnies, birds, and it also includes an animation cel depicting a school of fish leaping from the water to engulf airborne diesel engines before Honda’s cleaner i-CTDi takes their place. There’s no noise from the engine as it soars above, as Grr was designed to showcase Honda’s new, cleaner diesel engine rather than a car.

It was a mashup of different influences, including Chinese propaganda art, Bollywood, golf courses designed by Liberace. One of the things Bollywood and Liberace styled (like) golf courses are known for is their attention to detail. It’s not a rough-and-ready world; every leaf is taken into account.

The campaign’s theme song, Grrr, was performed by American author Garrison Keillor. On September 24, 2004, it was released in the United Kingdom.

Cog, a 60-second television and cinema commercial for the Honda Accord that debuted in 2003, was by far the most successful piece before the release of Grrr.

The Grrr campaign included newspaper and magazine adverts, radio commercials, free distributed items, and an internet presence that included an online game, e-mail advertising, and an interactive website, in addition to a 90-second television and cinema advertisement.


Grrr was a critical and commercial triumph. It was the year’s most-awarded campaign. Honda reported that brand recognition more than doubled in the months following the campaign’s launch. Overall, Honda product sales in the UK climbed by more than 35%, with sales of diesel-engined Accords increasing from 518 units in 2003 to 21,766 units in 2004.

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