How do you catch a Prius?

Last night, during Super Bowl 50, advertisers had trouble keeping up with Toyota. Sure, there were some crowdpleasers–like the Doritos ads and the Hyundai “First Date” ad with Kevin Hart, but Toyota surprised us all with a commercial for their Prius 4 that was pure advertising genius.

Watch “The Longest Chase” here:

Saatchi and Saatchi brought Toyota back to the Super Bowl ad game in style after an 11-year hiatus. And after this showing, I hope they come back next year.

Stealing the show with great advertising

Anyone can be funny in an ad, and those ads do well with viewers, especially during the Super Bowl. But Toyota’s ad was creative, funny and at the same time informative–displaying all the features of this new model in an entertaining way we’ll all remember. The key to pulling all of this off is that they didn’t take themselves too seriously and were willing to make fun of themselves to drive the point home.

Check out all these features they display while you’re being entertained:

  • Roomy – “Is this a Prius? It’s very spacious.” In case you missed that they fit four adult men into the car with room to spare, one of the characters utters that line.
  • Performance – Police call in to report the chase and the dispatcher replies, “How hard is it to catch a Prius?” Police response: “This thing’s actually pretty fast.” And we watch it snake through the busy city streets and pull some pretty sweet moves in the process–something you’re more likely to expect in a sports car commercial.
  • Mileage – The Prius goes and goes wearing out the cops in pursuit.
  • Quiet running & maneuverability – As the police sleep in their cars, the Prius quietly slips between the cars and away into the night.

In addition, you see the interior of the car, including its cute little gear shift, a backup camera and even autonomous braking for emergency situations. Plus, the red sculpted exterior of the car sells the high-performance as well.

This is basically a feel-good mini-movie from start to finish in which the product is the star. Crowds along the way cheer on the Prius and halfway through viewers want to join right in.

Yes, the Hyundai “First Date” ad was rated the top Super Bowl ad, but that really had more to do with the humor and the popularity of Kevin Hart–I mean, the man is on fire right now and can make pretty much anyone laugh.

It was a good ad, but which product are you more likely to remember? I think you end up remembering Kevin Hart more than the car, whereas with the Toyota ad, you remember the Prius. That’s what advertising is supposed to do.




Boomer or Bust? Toyota Rolls Out a New Venza Campaign

Toyota Venza has finally decided to put all its advertising eggs in one basket—the Boomer generation. (Buick might want to take note).

When Venza first came out, Toyota tried to market the vehicle to both younger and older audiences. But Toyota already has Scion to handle the youngest audience, and the Venza is a bit stationwagony. It’s nice to see a company fix a mistake after faltering.

Now, this new campaign, from Saatchi & Saatchi LA, drives a straighter road, flipping the relationship between Gen Y and their Boomer parents. This snippet from Toyota’s YouTube channel sums up the general theme:

It’s the middle of the day — do you know where your boomer parents are? When they have a Toyota Venza, boomers are anywhere but home. Visit to learn how Venza helps you keep on rolling.

Keep on Rolling is the Venza tagline. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it when I saw the print ad (below). But my interest was piqued to look further into this campaign.

Copy of Venza print ad

When I first saw the ad, I thought two things:

  1. Great copy. “Four out of five Venza owners were too busy to answer our survey.” Plays off of other types of ads and is driven home some by the photo below it.
  2. Who is this ad targeting? The mountain bikes and the tire rims suggest younger. But the still clean, shiny white car suggests something else.

Then I noticed the TV ads, with a little prompting from a friend who asked me if I had seen them and thought they would make a good topic for my blog. (Thanks, Nancy!)

The TV commercials clarify who the target audience is pretty quickly, and the Keep on Rolling tagline makes much more sense. Here’s the first one I saw, called “Social Network”:

All of the Venza commercials take this same approach—a slyly funny poke at stereotypes younger generations and advertisers have of the older Boomer generation.

Toyota is smartly going after a generation that feels left out of most brands’ advertising. The huge positive here is that not only is Toyota advertising to Boomers, but they are showing this older population in a very positive light.

Smart move, statistically. Numbering more than 79 million, Boomers are the largest group of consumers, and they are much more active than many advertisers seem to think.

The best statistic of all? Consumers 50 and older spent more on cars last year as compared with those under age 50. (Source)

The biggest mistake I see Toyota making with this is something I complimented Jeep for doing well in its Cherokee ads—reusing content from one commercial to another.

Maybe it’s the people in Toyota’s ads that make the content reuse too obvious. I know my first response to seeing this second ad (below) was “Hey, those are the same people and that’s the same footage…lame.”

What do you think? Am I being too harsh?

You can find all the Venza commercials on Toyota’s YouTube channel or you can view them below. Check them out and let me know what you think.

Will the campaign work? Could they have done something even better?

Notice the Cross Country and Messages commercials share footage too. I don’t think it works well in these either. But I do still think this is a fresh and solid campaign that’s a step in the right direction.

Cross Country



5 tips for effective taglines

Got tagline? Ok, that’s a pathetic ripoff of Got milk?the most influential tagline since 1948. But it’s a good question. You know a good tagline when you hear one—when it’s another brand’s. But what’s the secret to developing your own killer tagline?

Before every moment, there’s a moment (Amp Energy), and behind closed doors that’s when people doubt themselves or think too hard and blow it. But don’t get mad, get GLAD, here are 5 tips for creating taglines:

1. Keep it simple. Don’t overthink your message. Nike’s Just do it may just be the best tagline ever. And yet, I imagine there were at least a few people in the room who said, “Do what? This doesn’t make any sense.” Don’t be that person.

2. Keep it real. Don’t promise something in your tagline that you can’t deliver. Notice no airline has the tagline On time every time.

3. Differentiate from competitors. Tastes great, less filling (Miller Lite) does this in four words. Light beer originally was a tough sell because it seemed too watery and didn’t taste like “real” beer. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking (Timex) directly tackles a concern watch wearers had. The few, the proud, the Marines. Two words, “the few,” set the Marines apart and seemingly above other military branches. The trick is you have to know what sets you apart.

4. Connect to your audience. Think about your customers’ needs. What’s important to them? Nationwide is on your side. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. You’re in good hands with Allstate. All three get the concept, but Allstate drives it home. Insurance should make you feel protected. Which one sounds more comforting and protective to you?

Connect to needs or connect to emotions or attitude. Impossible is nothing. Adidas isn’t saying you can do the impossible in their shoes, but they know athletes thrive on that attitude. Know your audience.

5. Make it easy to remember (especially in relation to your product). Welcome to the state of independence. It’s boring. It’s a sentence more than a tagline, and you’d never guess it’s for a car. If Saab was trying to express the feeling of freedom you get behind the wheel, why didn’t they use the word “freedom”? Freedom to just drive. Freedom on four wheels. Freedom is yours. Which one do you think is easier to remember?

All five points are important. If you focus only on keeping it simple, you might end up Moving forward (Toyota) with a bad tagline. Nothing will work if it’s not meaningful.

Test your ideas and trust your creatives. After all, we bring good things to life (GE).

Feel free to add your favorite and least favorite taglines below.

Can marketing & PR save Toyota?

toyota logo

even when you don't want to

No. But, these 6 steps can.

1. Change your tagline. I know this sounds like it’s not important, but “Moving forward” was bad to begin with and now is plain embarrassing. “Moving forward…even when you don’t want to.”

2. Resign. Someone has to resign or be fired over this. Not a scapegoat—someone who was making these boneheaded decisions to put profit before safety. We all know there’s more than one, so get to it. This should’ve already happened.

3. Let an independent party investigate. Face it. You blew this so bad you can’t be trusted. Even if you are right about the reasons these cars failed, no one will believe you. Hire a trusted third party to publicly investigate and then correct the problems.

4. Stop advertising. The other night I saw your old car wash ad, touting “Toyota reliability.” Do I have to say any more?

And your new commercials? “80% of Toyotas are still on the road today.”  News flash: we no longer think that’s a good thing. I know I cringe every time a Toyota is behind me.  Your Sienna ads crack me up. I LOVE that you show Toyota’s best use as a stationary sort of quiet room that sits in the driveway! It’s perfect for all those Toyota lovers who are too afraid now to drive one. Really though—just stop. Please.

5. Innovate. Use the lessons from this experience to create an automated better way to track and respond to recalls. Make it so efficient and so great that while exclaiming “wow” over it, we start forgetting the whole mess that led you to this invention. Of course, you might want to outsource the electronic part of this. In fact, crowdsource the whole project. Get input from all the Toyota owners who are affected by the defective cars and the recall.

6. Apologize. For real this time. Let all your employees who genuinely feel sorry about this publicly apologize. Create docu-ads that show what you’re doing to fix the problem and prevent any more. Do NOT use actors. Use real employees. And really, if you don’t understand what you did wrong, then see step number two.