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A good campaign with bad grammar

Honda Civic is the car of choice for girl ninjas, hipster lumberjacks and golfing zombies. If you see a reflection of yourself in one of these funny personas, you’ll like the new Honda ad campaign from RPA.

It’s hip, it’s on-brand, and it will probably help sell cars. But there’s one tragic thing about these commercials that’s annoying the hell out of me. It’s the slogan: “To Each Their Own.”

More on that in a minute. First, let’s watch some funny commercials.

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This spot, “It’s good to be a Zombie,” is a riff on the classic zombie story, where the undead are a metaphor for social conformity. The twist here is that working in an office, engaging in consumerism, and having a regular night out with your buddies isn’t so bad. The best moment comes when the zombie calls his friend on his phone: “Hey Gary!” RPA’s press release even gives the dude a name and a specific occupation: “The Zombie, Mitch, is a salesman who’s into high-tech gadgets.” The song is “One Week of Danger” by The Virgins.

 

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I don’t love the dangerous driving stunts in the next spot, “Ninja,” but the licorice ropes, 1980s-style arcade game and decked-out Japanese art trucks are a nice touch. RPA says the character is supposed to be “cute, innocent and deadly.” She reminds me of the character Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass. The song is “Hoodie Ninja” by MC Chris.

 

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And finally, “Date with a Woodsman,” a hipster lumberjack who looks like he could be drinking craft beer in north Brooklyn San Francisco and playing banjo in a country-rock band. The ad agency describes him this way: “The Urban Woodsman, Jack, lives in the city but is at home in the woods.” The song is “All I Want Is You” by Barry Louis Polisar, which every hipster knows from the Juno soundtrack.

 

There’s also an overview commercial that includes 2 other characters. The next commercial will debut May 5 and star the “Monster.” The campaign has a pretty easy message: There are 5 different models of the Civic, one for everyone.

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Now, about that slogan. “To Each Their Own.”

If you’re a stickler for grammar, you already know why it’s wrong. The problem is singular-plural agreement. “Each” is a singular noun but “their” is a plural possessive adjective.

The expression is usually witten as, “To Each His Own,” which is grammatically correct but not inclusive. You could also go with, “To Each Her Own,” “To Each Its Own,” or “To All Their Own.” But those all sound weird. This damn language!

(Update: Okay, on the matter of whether they/their can be used as a gender-neutral substitute for the singular him/his… my Chicago Manual of Style does not acknowledge this as proper usage, but my Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary does. Both Chicago and the AP Stylebook suggest rewriting your sentence when you encounter this problem. So it’s not wrong; it’s unsettled.)

Still a great effort overall for RPA and copywriter Sarah May Bates.

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Who’s responsible for this ad?

RPA, Santa Monica, USA
Chief Creative Officer: David Smith
Executive Creative Director: Joe Baratelli
Group Creative Director: Jason Sperling
Creative Directors: Nathan Crow, Adam Lowrey
Associate Creative Director / Art Director: Jamin Duncan
Senior Copywriter: Sarah May Bates
Sr. VP, Executive Producer, Content: Gary Paticoff
More credits at Ads of the World.

Who signed off on it?

Tom Peyton, senior manager, national advertising, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising

7 comments

  1. L. Oppenheim says:

    “The problem is singlar-plural agreement.” This is an awkward place for a typo.

  2. XP1 says:

    To each one’s own…

  3. Henry B. says:

    Reprehensible disgusting ungrammatical and worst of all *unnoticed* by 93.7 percent of TV ad-watchers.
    I regret having just recently bought a Honda, *because of this ad*.

    Henry

  4. Jeff says:

    This grammar rule is American and relatively new (like 100 years or something). “Their” has been used for hundreds of years as third-person plural of indeterminate sex. We need it, it works, and no one should get their panties in a bunch about it.

  5. Ross says:

    Nor is “each” a singular noun. (Not even when singlar/cingular.) It can be a pronoun (as here) or an adjective or an adverb; but it can’t be a noun. You can’t say “the/an each.”)

  6. Kevin says:

    A Good Campaign with Poor Grammar, perhaps?

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