Honda Debuts Comedic Voice AI ‘Harvey’ in TV Ads and Vocal Chatbot
Honda Australia has given its new HR-V model a voice AI named Harvey for a new marketing campaign combining television advertising and a voice and text-based chatbot. Though Harvey is not an actual conversational AI, the “talking car” and interactive experience demonstrate how much the public has accepted automotive voice assistants as a common feature.
Harvey is voiced by Australian comedian Sam Taunton and built in a partnership between Honda and marketing firm Leo Burnett as part of Honda’s Designed for Joy campaign. The company filmed two TV ads, the one above where Harvey discusses the SUV’s design, and another concerning its connectivity. The humorous notion, bolstered by Taunton’s voice, that the car is bragging to prospective buyers about its capabilities draws attention to the kind of advertising many people tune out.
The same goes for the Harvey chatbot. The digital voice of the car elaborates on its engine, fuel efficiency, and many other technical elements, as well as Honda dealership locations. But, Harvey comes loaded with jokes, small talk answers about its favorite music and movies, and even relatively straightforward explanations of NFTS and cryptocurrency, albeit tied to even more bad dad jokes.
“The Designed for Joy platform is all about celebrating the Honda experience as playful, straightforward and simple,” Honda head of brand and communications Ben Familton said. “Harvey is not only the most seamless, joyful way to experience a car, it’s a category first, which we’re immensely proud of.”
The web portal to talk to Harvey has quite good speech-to-text technology for when the user talks and the synthetic version of Taunton’s voice is impressive, capable of mimicking emotion with the words, according to Honda. It seems likely some of the jokes and comments are actual recordings, however. Honda is embedding Harvey within Facebook Messenger and Google Voice alongside the website. Harvey is not, however, an automotive voice assistant. Honda launched a SoundHound-built voice assistant into some of its fleet in 2020 and inked a deal with Google to embed the tech giant’s Android Automotive platform into cars scheduled to debut later this year.
“Voice technology has become so integrated into our lives,” Leo Burnett’s digital creative director Chris Jovanov said. “You’ve got Alexa, and Siri, and we looked at the HR-V and thought – why not Harvey? Part utility, part entertainment, Harvey is a fun brand experience designed to make car buying joyful and accessible from anywhere.”