Toyota's new campaign for the newest version of its 4Runner mid-size SUV returns to days of yore, when SUVs were marketed as the ultimate off-road vehicles. While most automakers have migrated to marketing truck-based SUVs (versus unibody "crossovers") as multipurpose carryalls, Toyota is going back to the woods with the effort that carries the tag line "You In?"
In a more contemporary twist, the campaign trades TV ads for digital and social-centric elements, including a Web-based "Trail Tracker." The feature, at TrailTracker.com, is a kind of "Google street view for trails," as Mike McKay, executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi/L.A., describes it. The site shows off-road dirt tracks around the country, with ground-level video uploaded by consumers. Drivers can upload GPS data, photos and comments. Other drivers can then search the trail database to preview trails and download trips.
McKay tells Marketing Daily that Toyota partnered with Trails. com and global surfing-conditions and locations Web site Surfline.com to get initial trails loaded onto the program, which he says will eventually be on mobile platforms with an app telling people when they are near a listed trail.
More traditional elements include wild postings and a raft of print ads the company is running later this year in active-lifestyle magazines. The campaign's creative includes block lettering with a hand-drawn look filled in with topographic map details. Text says things like: "He who smells the worst wins." and "Volcanic rock, thick fog bank, rogue wave. You in?"
McKay says the ads are customized for different outdoor lifestyle magazines for pursuits like surfing, mountain climbing and snow skiing. He says the company decided to go back to an outdoor theme because most other automakers had abandoned it. "This is the last authentic SUV. All the rest have gone suburbia," he says. "We saw an opportunity to go right back at that spot."
While there is no TV, the effort includes online videos featuring owners and outdoor vignettes. One will show a guy being chased by a bear, and as he's running, he's holding a camera. At the last moment he turns the camera to his face, so the viewer sees that he's actually thrilled with the experience, after which the tag "You In?" comes up.
The campaign also includes a forthcoming integrated partnership with National Geographic Adventure that includes a custom Web video series called "Behind the Lens" that gives viewers expert advice on photographing outdoor adventures. Also, 4Runner is a sponsor of Sony Playstation 3's big holiday release, "Uncharted 2." 4Runner is integrated into a prequel motion comics series in the PlayStation Home environment.
In addition to the outdoor and adventure verticals, including Backpacker, Climbing and snowboarding and surfing endemics, ads will be in mass publications, including Sports Illustrated and ESPN.
Toyota will also be running outdoor adventure-themed home page takeovers for 4Runner on ESPN, ESPN Outdoors, National Geographic, Discovery properties and HowStuffWorks.