These Eerily Lifelike Crash Test Dummies Aren’t Quite What They Seem

Acura humanizes its commitment to safety

Acura puts a fresh, unsettling spin on the crash-test-dummy concept in "The Test," an unorthodox but riveting minute-long film by Mullen Lowe that touts the automaker's safety record.

Set in an eerie crash-testing lab with ominous ambient tones playing in the background, the spot opens with a technician wheeling four life-like figures toward an Acura MDX. At first, as he hefts them into the vehicle and carefully poses their limbs and heads, they appear to be incredibly lifelike crash test dummies. After a few moments, however, we realize these are, in fact, human beings who manage to remain expressionless and incredibly still.

And the "driver" looks suspiciously like the crash-test technician. Just what is going on here?

We get our answer about the same time the vehicle collides with the wall. It's a logical reveal that makes sense in context and really drives home Acura's message. Still, why take such an unorthodox approach to announce you've earned top safety ratings?

"Most ads that use crash test dummies are very technical and cold in nature," a style Acura chose to upend in favor of a more emotional experience, Leila Cesario, national advertising manager at Acura, tells AdFreak.

"We are communicating the seriousness of safety and the trust that people place in their vehicles when they put their families in their cars and send them off to work and school. This is an incredible responsibility that we fully understand and experience ourselves. In this spot, we are punctuating this emotional drive behind our safety achievements."

Overall, "The Test," backed by a broader digital campaign created with Razorfish, earns high marks for taking familiar themes in an unexpected direction. The pervasive strangeness of the commercial, though—anyone feeling like a trip to Madame Tussauds?—might blunt its impact for some folks, especially on first viewing.


Spot: Acura "The Test"

Client: American Honda Motor Co.

Jon Ikeda, Vice President and General Manager, Acura

Leila Cesario, Manager, National Advertising, Acura

Agency: Mullen Lowe

Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker

Executive Creative Director: Margaret Keene

Art Director: Paul Foulkes

Writer: Chris Ford

Producer: Dustin Oliver

Senior Business Affairs Manager: Davina Turnbull

Asst. Business Affairs Manager: Nickie Kolb

Music Supervisor: Danica Bates

Director of Art Production: Kate Shoults

Senior Art Producer: Alison Brislin

Managing Director: Cameron McNaughton

Group Account Director: Nicole Neopolitan 

Account Director: Courtney Calvert

Senior Account Executive: Kylie Mugg

Product Knowledge Director: Curtis Millward

Production Company: The Corner Shop

Director: Peter Thwaites

Executive Producer: Anna Hashmi

Producer: Jay Shapiro

DP: Joost Van Gelder

Editorial Company: Work

Executive Producer: Marlo Baird

Editor: Bill Smedley

Assistant Editor: Ben Foushée

Producer: Barbara Healy

Postproduction Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Executive Producer: Kate Hitchings

Set Supervisor: Ryan Knowles

Lead Flame Artist: Giles Cheetham

Matte Painting: Dave Gibbons

Colorist: Aubrey Woodiwiss

Sound Company: 740 Sound

Executive Producer: Scott Ganary

Mixer: Stephen Dickson, Larry Winer

Sound Designer: Chris Pinkston, Rob Marshall

Sound Design Producer: Jeff Martin

Associate Producer: Geena Richard


Track: Ex Machina – "Skin"

Composers: Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow

Shane Casting:

Casting Agent: Shane Liem

Digital Banners and Landing Page

Agency: Razorfish

VP, Group Creative Director: Mike Frank

Associate Creative Director: Kate Foley

Art Director: Caitlin Bauler

Senior Copywriter: Anne Butcher

Senior Art Director: Can Kadioglu

Art Director: Chris Kitahara

Senior Copywriter: Newton Stern

Content Strategist: Jonathan Baker

Strategy Director: Evan Zeller

Associate Motion Director: Carlos Barillas

Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Ryan Daly

Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Shamim Toufighian

VP, Technology: Ron Davis

Senior Technical Architect: Udayan Shukla

Senior Functional Analyst: Ahmed BenAssaf

Senior Software Engineer: Pratik Sheth

Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Johnatan Garcia

Senior Presentation Layer Developer: Jose Lombana

Associate QA Manager: David Hua

QA Analyst: Danny Ta

QA Analyst – Luis Garzon

Senior Director Social Media – Jerry Lawrence

Social Media Strategist – Zachary Cheek

VP, Client Partner- Liz Swanson

Account Director – Amy Kelly

Account Supervisor – Erik Troedsson

Program Director – Rosie Rathburn

Senior Project Manager – Ryan Schmidt

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.