Yep, more Honda. This time, on two wheels, and delivered to you by icons of the ’80s: Grace Jones, the style-defining model and musician, Adam Ant, who solo’d his way to number one in the UK and Australia on his first single, and Devo, the guys who put Akron on the map for something other than tires, and also made cool music that charted a lot.
Honda in the ’80s, like all manufacturers, had to convince buyers with obscenely rad advertisements that their vehicles were indeed cool enough to choose over a wealth of incredibly tubular options.
Honda did this with their Elite scooters by enlisting some big names from the music scene. The common pitch in the entire campaign was to express your individuality, which makes roughly zero sense coming from Devo, whose entire image came from being five incredibly well-matched dudes. However, the spot is cool, and they managed to get the popups to all come out in unison, so it worked.
An ad that made a lot more sense in this campaign emphasizing individuality is this one featuring Grace Jones. Grace Jones was an iconic model of the ’80s, who had just appeared in the 1985 Bond film A View To a Kill and her last album had hit the Billboard Top 100.
The Elite was a four-stroke 125 or 150 cc scooter that featured a digidash, a water-cooled motor, and as they were clearly fond of showing off in their ads, a popup headlight. All of these were the new hotness in the mid-’80s. It made sense for their ad campaign to try and reflect this brave-new-world design and tech, but at the same time, after seeing more recent celebrity car commercial campaigns, my hat is off to Honda.
The final spot with Grace featured Adam Ant, as well. This one appears to encourage people who have no idea how to drive to ride a scooter, because it’s sexy. On my first watch of this ad, I wondered how they got away with it in the mid-80s, and then I realized there was a second version of the same spot that was significantly less suggestive that they ended up using more frequently. The raunchy one is way funnier though.