What would Zeus drive? An electric-yellow Scion tC Release Series. Every year the Toyota division, whose purview is younger auto buyers whose credo might be "personalization at all costs," rolls out a run of 2,200 or so limited-edition versions its tC, xB or xD cars. In past years the size of Scion's promotional activity around the Ltd's has been in line with the volume of cars available. Not this time.
For the new tC Release Series 7.0 in High Voltage yellow, the company is rolling out an unusually large TV and viral push -- the largest to date for a Release Series car -- that includes a six-episode viral video series that launches before the TV ads begin. In addition to the size of the campaign, with the TV spots running across a range of cable channels nationwide, the effort evinces a humorous tone that is new for Scion. When Scion has employed humor in the past, it tends to be on the dark side -- with an ironic twist, as in the Little Deviants campaign for the 2008 xD.
The new campaign, via San Francisco-based Attik, Scion's AOR since the brand's inception, stars the ancient Greek god Zeus revisited as a toga-wearing cad, a cross between Falstaff and Charlie Sheen. Lacking lightning bolts, but endowed with an Olympian ego, Zeus here is a buffoon who bores women, thinks of his parchment scroll as a mobile device, and commands a cappuccino machine unsuccessfully to brew him a cup when he can't figure out how it works.
A source close to Attik points out that comedy is something of an advertising sub-specialty, and that agencies will typically subcontract to a species of director whose expertise is hijinks when they want SNL-type humor. Not so with Scion, for whom Attik creative director Simon Needham has helmed most all the automaker's ads, including these. "It shows how much they trust him at this point," says the source.
The company went to Attik early on for this campaign. "This is the first time we have featured a Release Series vehicle in a major campaign," Owen Peacock, Scion's national marketing communications director, says. "Typically, we have done online ads, or a little print and some flyers to hand out at auto shows -- but really, it's been subdued until now."
The company decided to go large because the car has the right color, look, package, and technology. "It's such a compelling vehicle we thought, 'why not make a campaign round it?'" He says they typically go to Attik once they have developed and built the vehicle. "Usually, we hand them a completed car; this time we didn't even have the color named." Scion sold about 1,100 previous-generation tC Release Series 6.0 "Speedway Blue" cars in February last year.
The campaign is also an experiment in reversing the traditional TV first, digital second media schedule for national campaigns. "We are trying something new. We wanted to see what might happen if we led with online and had broadcast come later," he says -- adding, however, that the TV spots, which have Zeus on his throne on Olympus extolling Scion tC's (and his) virtues, direct viewers to YouTube and Facebook where they can see the vignettes. Scion also has a dedicated microsite at Scion.com with the look and feel of the campaign. "That's the hub and from there you can learn more about the car, see the commercials and online videos."
The TV ads -- which break nationally on June 27 on channels like Adult Swim, Fuse, Fuel, CBS Sports, History, Spike, SI TV, and Comedy Central -- also conclude with a shot of both the tC RS, and a stock tC. "The beauty of it is, it lets us tell more people that we do special builds, and also does a good job of overall branding. It's also a sustaining campaign for tC."
The campaign follows the production tC launch effort "Take on the Machine," which ran through March, followed by a Pure Price campaign spotlighting Scion's no-haggle retail formula. "This is going to run through the summer months and then when this one is starting to wind down, you'll see the next campaign supporting [the forthcoming subcompact] iQ car.