Scion Targets The Counterculture Carefully

Jeri Yoshizu

How does a car company go after counterculture artists and fans with programs in art, music and film? Carefully. Scion's lifestyle, events and promotions manager Jeri Yoshizu is putting a lot of those delicate eggs in an interactive basket with a new site, Scion AV.

Scion AV is kind of a multi-discipline arts site that has a "six degrees of separation" feel, per Yoshizu. The Torrance, Calif.-based division of Toyota is adding a raft of music videos to the site, which Scion also produced. Yoshizu fields questions on the Gen Y (and Z) target for Scion and how the company is using the Web and dozens of small monthly events to get the message out.

Q: Doesn't branding of any kind offend the sensibilities of hipster consumers and the participating artists?



A: I would say that five to eight years ago, the question would be yes -- when we were very targeted to underground hip-hop. Hip-hop is associated with cars, models and "bling," so you would think they would have been way more money-oriented. But now the 18 to-24-year-olds are so much more sophisticated in marketing and are so much savvier about media.

They understand, for example, that the reason Prince was on the Super Bowl half-time show was because of TV sponsorships. The tickets didn't pay for it. They are savvy that nothing's for free -- that someone's paying. You would think there would be that backlash in the metal and garage scene -- which are very hardcore and almost elitist -- but surprisingly, there is no blatant hating as there was sometimes in underground.

Q: You are producing music videos as part of this new channel. What does that mean?

A: It means we are not licensing videos, but we are also not producing them in-house. We are hiring people to produce them.

Q: Do these programs mean you are pulling away from doing TV advertising?

A: No, but what we are doing is the opposite of mainstream traditional advertising; we are not on "Top Chef" or "American Idol." We aren't buying media for massive properties and getting huge impressions, and going after lots of people at the same time. We are more niche product, so we have to say we need to be in front of people more effectively. We are buying very niche programming like Comedy Central and Fuel TV, because you still need to get coverage across the country.

Q: Scion does dozens of arts and music events per month. Do you have products there?

A: We are spending sometimes under $500 -- so we don't have products, as that is a lot of work, but we have merchandise. And in order to attend the events you have to go through, or or our Facebook pages.

Q: What are you going to be doing next with Scion AV?

A: Next year we will be integrating more video, more film. We are about to launch a video-project label, so I think for the next year it's all about video discipline. A lot of the stuff will be opening up the art area for sound, movement, film.

Q: When did Scion AV launch, and how much traffic are you getting to the site?

A: We began working on it a year ago; it has been a gradual thing, so we did not do a hard launch because we needed to test it. We will slowly start doing more media buys to promote it. When we post videos, our artists put them on their pages, and blogs are picking them up. So traffic has gone up since the late fall. In the summer, it was 200 to 500 uniques a day. Then after the soft launch this fall, we got 1,500 a day.

But we are not aiming to have a billion eyeballs; it's very specific to a target market. Engagement is what counts.

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