Toyota is launching a campaign for its Avalon full-size sedan for the general market, although it's via Toyota's diversity agency and features pretty much an all-African American cast, except for the William Devane-esque villain and the errant thug. The campaign, via Burrell Communications, includes an assist from Terry King, who runs editorial and post-production shop Territory. All told, there are three TV ads bearing an "Only the Name Remains" theme.
The campaign has a cinematic narrative with a spy storyline, and stars Idris Elba of "The Wire," and "The Office." In it, starting with a 60-second ad, he plays a mysterious Avalon driver (kind of along the lines of original BMW's "The Hire" starring Clive Owen.) Elba picks up an older man bearing a suitcase, knowing all the while that he's being tailed. The old guy takes off his mask in the car and we see he’s actually a beautiful woman. The chase starts, with other cars, drones, spies and mounted cameras, during which we see how the car can perform under duress -- but perhaps more important, how different it is from its forebear. It’s an important story point because it’s the confusion about what the car actually is that lets him squeak past his pursuers. Thus, "Only the name remains."
That could be a theme for Toyota and its mid-market sedans, which have desperately needed design upgrades, as other players have gotten far ahead in that area. The bellwether of change is the 2015 Camry, unveiled at the New York Auto Show this year, which sports a total redesign.
The Avalon campaign also has a 30-second ad where Elba drives down an isolated wooded road with his passenger and past a checkpoint -- which is no problem, again, because the guards don't recognize the car as an Avalon. In the last spot, Elba takes the girl to a private airstrip and escapes. The ads direct viewers to go to a microsite hosting an interactive film where the user becomes Elba, escaping the baddies while trying to placate his passenger. In the process of escaping from the two other vehicles, users get some exposure to the car's technology and other features.