Toyota's new Sienna is here. Yes, minivans are a stagnant market, thanks to crossovers, which are going gangbusters, and are now officially outselling cars, but still, moms have to take kids to soccer, and minivans are still the portage of choice. For now at least. But they can also go into space and give you advice on modern dance.
The company is launching a pure digital campaign for the 2015 model of the Sienna that revisits to some extent what it did with the 2011 Sienna, when it created a rap video, "Swagger Wagon." The social video, featuring the Sienna SE and a pair of super white hip hop wannabe parents, was a direct riff on Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it Like It’s Hot” with Pharrell. That video has gotten over 12.5 million views to date. What’s not to like?
The new effort isn’t just a aspect of a larger reveal, it is the reveal. The automaker is going totally social for the launch of the 2015 minivan, and it is the first time Toyota has done so. The campaign is also unusual in that the heavy lifting was done principally by Toyota's PR department and its special projects PR agency Golin. And it’s the first time the company has given social media stars/influencers pretty much free rein to do creative.
For the video series, Toyota employed three parents who have gotten big viewer numbers on channels like YouTube and Vine for their humorous takes on family life: The “Eh Bee” family has drawn an online audience with six-second Vine videos around their family antics; Dreamworks after-effects artist Daniel Hashimoto got YouTube fame with his home videos, "Action Movie Kid," where he uses some CGI effects in regular home video of his toddler, so it seems as if the boy is doing MIB-type feats; and Matthew Clarke got fame with his “Convos with My 2-Year-Old” a video series in which real conversations with his young daughter are reenacted but using an adult man as his daughter's stand-in.
In the Sienna “Action Movie Kid” video, Hashimoto and his son are driving the vehicle in outer space, while getting sucked by tractor beam into a starship, which turns out, in the real world, to just be their garage. In Clarke's video, the Sienna gives him advice on how to dance at his daughter's birthday party.
The creative touts the vehicle's redesigned interior, handling, tech and something called "Driver Easy Speak," a built-in microphone that amplifies the driver's voice to the back for obvious reasons (to any parent of obstreperous kids.)
"We selected these parents because we know their stories," says Sona Iliffe-Moon, PR manager for Toyota Motor Sales. "We have spent lots of time searching for the right influencers, but honestly there are lots of parents in our group who were familiar with their work." She says Toyota lent prototype Siennas to the three parents with free rein to do what they wanted. "We knew they had the right vision; and of course they shared their storyboards with us." They worked with Golin-Harris and the in-house PR firm as part of the process. "But we didn't produce [the content]; they did."
As for outreach, the campaign includes paid integration with BuzzFeed, and the influencers are also sharing the content on their own channels ("Action Movie Kid", for example, has over 180,000 subscribers and over 38 million views.) The videos drive traffic to Toyota.com/future vehicles, where people can get a vehicle overview. "The whole program is a great example of earned, owned, paid and shared."