AUTOMOTIVE

Verizon Hoodwinked Everybody

A car that conquers any traffic jam by rising up, having its wheels spread wide and rolling over all the other vehicles? Yeah, that’s probably an ad.

A mysterious vehicle called the Hum Rider showed up in Facebook videos this week, and immediately captured the attention of anyone who’s ever sat in traffic (i.e., pretty much everyone). “Stuck in a traffic jam? Hum Rider is here to help,” the video blurb said. “With the push of a button, Hum Rider widens and elevates and lets you drive over cars in front of you. Problem solved.”

Yes, it is a real car that was actually produced. But alas, there’s only one of them. Check out the video to see what they’re really selling.

It is, not surprisingly, a campaign by viral video agency Thinkmodo (whose previous forays into futuristic vehicles included the hovercraft golf cart and jetpack golf cart, both for Oakley sunglasses). The Hum Rider actually promotes an in-car Hum device from Verizon Telematics that makes your car more connected.

The Hum Rider video got 35 million views on Facebook in less than 48 hours. Adweek spoke with Thinkmodo co-founder James Percelay about the hilarious vehicle.

Where did this fun idea come from?
Verizon Telematics asked us to come up with a viral video to demonstrate how its Hum upgrades your car, so we we pitched them the idea of a car that literally goes up. They loved the metaphor, and how a car that elevates its way out of traffic would get attention.

How did you go about actually making the car?
We showed our idea to a Lancaster, Calif., based fabrication company who we’ve worked with before called A2Zfx. They have former aerospace and Hollywood mechanical special effects engineers, and said they could bring our idea to life.

It must have been quite the feat of engineering.
It was a huge engineering feat—300 feet of hydraulic hose, custom-made steel telescoping arms connected to wheels with motors inside the hubs, a 45-gallon hydraulic fluid reservoir, truck wheels, cameras beneath the car so you can safely steer over the cars below—and most difficult, no axle.

Is this a common dream, to have an elevating car that can get through traffic jams?
We try to touch a nerve with what we create, and the online responses and TV news coverage so far confirm our suspicion that many people fantasize about a magic button that would enable their car to fly or drive over a traffic jam.

You left it a mystery, at the end of the spot, just what Hum does. Is this video just meant to prompt people to seek out more info about it?
“Hum” is a device by Verizon Telematics that makes your car smarter and more connected with features like a mechanics hotline, maintenance reminders and boundary and speed alerts. And, starting today, a wifi hotspot in the car with HumX.

And yes, we like to engage audiences’ curiosity first, and then drive them to the brand’s website for more information. It seems to be an effective strategy, since Verizon’s Hum Facebook page is nearing 10 million views and 60,000 likes in a day and a half.

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