The Grinch Steals Honda

“As much of a cynical grump as the Grinch can be, we’ve got a hunch we can help him have a change of heart and save Happy Honda Days.”


In partnership with Universal Pictures and Illumination’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,Honda has discovered that their Happy Honda Days event was stolen by the Grinch during Sunday television programming, leaving an empty Honda dealership and spreading unhappiness across the automaker’s annual holiday campaign. The Grinch canceled Honda’s annual sales event because it was simply too happy and he has taken over the brand’s Twitter channel (@Honda), where he shares unhappy and unmerry holiday comments, featuring the hashtag #GrinchTakeover. Fans will want to follow along to see what else the Grinch may be scheming — or if Happy Honda Days can be saved.

The Grinch is also using Honda’s Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube channels to spread word about his Twitter takeover. 

            “As much of a cynical grump as the Grinch can be, we’ve got a hunch we can help him have a change of heart and save Happy Honda Days,” said Susie Rossick, assistant vice president of Honda Marketing. “The Grinch is an iconic holiday character with a nostalgic appeal that entertains the whole family, and now he is putting a new spin on our Happy Honda Days sales event that is sure to break through the clutter of traditional holiday advertising.

            In theaters now, The Grinch stars Academy Award®-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the title character in the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit. Funny, inspiring and visually stunning, The Grinch tells a universal story about the redemptive power of kindness and the true spirit of Christmas. As a marketing partner of the film, Honda’s campaign includes two TV commercials, digital media, social media posts and NBCUniversal custom content featuring the Grinch.

Honda’s annual Happy Honda Days tradition continues in 2018, by helping shoppers re-live that childhood feeling of getting something they truly loved for the holidays, by getting a great deal on a new Honda as an adult.

Through the magic of stop motion animation, Honda has brought these beloved throw-back toys to life. Original versions of the toys were actually used in the campaign, along with original voice talent.

Ryan Johnson
SVP / Group Director, Branded Content RPA

Give us an overview of the campaign, what is it about and what was your role in the creation?

With the return of the holiday season comes the return of Honda’s long-running “Happy Honda Days” creative campaign.  And every season Honda promises people great deals and happiness all around through a humor-filled campaign.

This year, there’s a twist. We partnered with The Grinch movie to have the iconic character steal Happy Honda Days, because Honda’s “car holiday” has become Way. Too. Happy. The Grinch completely took over Honda’s campaign for 4 days, including custom TV, digital media and website takeover. Topping it all off, the Grinch took over Honda’s Twitter account. But, true to the Grinch’s story, he had a change of heart and returned Happy Honda Days, allowing Honda shoppers to rediscover the festive deals.  My role as Head of Branded Content was to bring together creative teams at RPA and at Universal/Illumination to help make this story come to life.

Was the brief for this holiday campaign any different that than the usual? What challenges did that present?

We know how cluttered the holiday season is for advertising, especially in the Auto category.  That’s why for Happy Honda Days, we’ve always looked to stand out in unique ways to entertain people, with our own brand of holiday humor.  This year was no different. We turned to what’s happening in pop culture that could help us connect and break through, and The Grinch film launch presented a great opportunity to do that.

What inspired you to approach the campaign this way?

Happy Honda Days is one of the most recognized holiday sales events. The Grinch is the antithesis of holiday cheer. It made perfect sense to have the Grinch try to disrupt Honda’s holiday spirit.

What’s a “behind the scenes” story that only you know about?

The Grinch was much nicer to work with than you’d expect.

Are there any holiday ad tropes that you think should be retired by now?

Call me overly sentimental, but I like how brands have raised the bar around the holiday season to create special campaigns that tap into spreading holiday joy.  

What is your favorite holiday campaign of all time?

The Coca-Cola Polar Bears campaign has been one of my favorites. It’s stood the test of time for its simplicity, and ability to continue to evolve.

What can we expect from your agency in 2019?

Hopefully more of the same. Irreverent marketing that stands out from the rest of the holiday fare that shows people the great deals they can get on the Honda they’ve wanted all year.

What do you think the advertising industry's New Year’s resolution should be?

Continued focus on inclusivity and diversity. Because we all succeed when we all succeed.