The year was 2003; the creative ad men and women of Wieden + Kennedy dug out an old idea originally meant for the Civic and went on to create one of the most incredible car advertisements in recent history.
It was called “Cog” – a chain reaction video that wouldn’t feature much of the car but at the same time, quite a lot of it. It required two pre-production units which were almost immediately taken apart for the admen to asses how the components can be put together. Not only did the chain reaction need to work, its sequence had to be clever.
It costs 100,000 pounds and required more than six months of developing and testing, before filming could even begin. Once that was done, reports claimed that it cost another one million pounds to shoot. It took them 60 takes in three days to accomplish and apparently, all the original concepts were not even used.
There have been conflicting reports, even from the same source on how many takes it actually took. First it was 600 then later on it was 60, but the slate board in this behind the scenes video however, stated “606”, so we’ll leave you to dish it out with Google.
What’s certain is that the entire chain reaction wasn’t shot in one take but instead was split into two halves as getting a studio that big to accommodate the entire ensemble would’ve been too expensive. Could you tell where the halfway point was? Here’s a clue – fumes.
Speaking of which, even the temperature of the studio was taken into account as it could mess up the movement of the components and in turn, ruining the entire sequence. You can only imagine the level of precision needed to pull the immensely complex chain reaction off.
Not only did they have to contend with the smoothness of the sequence, lighting, studio conditions (temperature/wind/vibrations), the shoot was also constrained by the limited capabilities of the cameras from that era, which could barely cope with the continuous focus from small to large to small items again.
If you pay closer attention, you’d notice some movements do appear fake with a healthy dose of CGI and over the years, questions have been raised and mysteries supposedly debunked. Again, you have plenty of time, the Internet is free and the search engine you’re looking for is spelt “Google”.
Take the tyres rolling up the slope for example. The technicians brought in to calculate the physics of that movement claimed that there’s weight at the bottom of the tyres. Once the tyre is nudged, as it attempts to balance itself, it rolls forward too. Even the amount of oil, used to slow down the nuts so that it wouldn’t roll too quick and bounce off the edge, was taken into account.
And what you get is two minutes of mechanical movement perfection, the unveiling of the Accord and a simple yet effective and lasting message at the end that said, “Isn’t it nice, when things just work?”
Although, I’d argue that it’s true with a Toyota as well.