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Sep 08, 2001
Case Study

Honda Motor Europe Reaches Millions with a Viral, Rich Media Email Campaign

SUMMARY: In this classic viral marketing Case Study, hear how Honda popped a video online, sent 500 (yes only 500) people emails about it, and then sat back and watched tens of thousands visit its site. (Warning kids: do not try this at home without adult supervision.)
A year before BMW's online Films and Ford Explorer's famous Yahoo! home page, rich media ad, Honda Europe was testing rich media email campaigns. This particular campaign was devised in the Spring 2000 by Dow Carter and The Leith Agency to promote the launch of the new 5-door Honda HRV ‘Joy Machine’ by Honda Motor Europe (HME).

Several ‘Joy Machine’ short films were shot,
converted and compressed so that they could be sent as
email attachemnts. Although they employed sound, the
films all worked as ‘silent movies’ so that those
without sound cards could appreciate them fully. Most
importantly, the films were designed to be entertaining
so that viewers would pass them on, maximising exposure
to the Web site address (
featured at the end of each one. And of course the
films made it clear that there was plenty more fun (as
well as films) to be had at the site, as well as
information about the car itself (and how to buy it).

Emails, complete with attached films, were
sent to the primary audience –- employees of HME and its
agencies only. That’s it – 500 emails to personnel. No
emails were sent to prospective customers, and
absolutely no spamming of any kind took place. But the
key to this experiment was whether or not the initial
recipients would keep the emails to themselves...


Dow Carter set up an extranet stats site to
monitor traffic at, and they
found some pretty amazing results: within the first week
of the initial 500 emails being sent, the Web site
achieved 2,779 user sessions. By week three this number
had soared to over 35,000. And the number is still
rising – when we spoke to Helen Lodge at Dow Carter
earlier this week she advised us that as many as 4.5
million people are now estimated to have seen the Joy
Machine films. Not bad for a campaign which was never
targeted directly at the end-customer, huh?

Honda are not saying how much the films cost to
make, but thanks to email they’ve been distributed
worldwide for practically nothing, creating quite a
demand for the car. In fact the campaign may have been
too successful – we’re told that there’s a significant
level of interest for the Joy Machine in Canada, for
instance. It’s not available there.

Useful links related to this article:

Honda Joy Machine page

Dow Carter

The Leith Agency
See Also:

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