Lexus is hoping to bring younger people into the luxury marque by promoting its fifth hybrid around a global-warming debate series. The initial "Darker Side of Green" debate was this spring in New York, and had comic Sarah Silverman moderating a debate between a global warming skeptic and an alternative-energy advocate.
The expanded program, promoting the CT 200h hybrid sedan, will comprise four more debates with celebrity moderators -- Andy Samberg, Jamie Kennedy, Tracy Morgan, and Mark McGrath -- and alternative energy advocates versus skeptics.
Patron Spirits co-sponsors and drinks are central to pre- and after-parties at the venues, with interior-design themes intended to evoke the CT 200h.
Environmental advocates Simran Sethi, Amanda Little, Eric Bates, and David Roberts and climate change skeptics Phelim McAleer, Christopher Horner, Lord Monckton, and Steve Everley will face each other in the lighthearted series.
Andrea Lim, Lexus events marketing manager, tells Marketing Daily the company left open the possibility of extending the program after the initial go in New York in March. "The way that we approach an event series is, we always have a vision that such events could have extensions," she says. "The whole idea of introducing [CT 200h] early was to create dialogue and prolong the conversation in a unique and offbeat way."
Lim says the success of the New York event convinced the Torrance, Calif. automaker to move the debates to other metro areas and follow that up with a "Darker Side" preview tour later.
The first debate in the multi-market series, to be moderated by Andy Samberg, will be in Los Angeles on July 8. Emmy Award-winning journalist Simran Sethi and journalist, skeptic and filmmaker Phelim McAleer will face off.
Comedian Jamie Kennedy will host the next one on July 20 in Miami. The third one, moderated by Tracey Morgan, will be on July 27 in New York between Eric Bates, editor of Rolling Stone, and the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, a former policy advisor to U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The last one will be on Aug. 5 in Chicago and will be moderated by singer Mark McGrath.
Lim says the stylized focus of the efforts, with a "dark" theme, is meant to get people interested in the program who might otherwise be turned off by an overtly environmentalist, perhaps patronizing, tone. "To make it edgier, we had to make it polarizing, not what one normally associate hybrids with," she says. "No nice blue skies and butterflies."
The company used Inform Ventures to handle the events and line up entertaining moderators to make it clever, not too serious and entertaining.