The new effort, via Toyota's corporate-advertising shop, New York-based Dentsu America, is Toyota's first integrated corporate ad campaign since 2004. The effort talks about the company's salubrious influences on the U.S. economy from its production base in the U.S., and its environmental and corporate goodwill efforts on U.S. soil.
Toyota launched the effort on Monday night's "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" as the program's sole advertiser.
In addition to the TV spot, the effort incorporates print and online ads. It is the latest in a series of such campaigns that go back to 1990. The last such effort, which began about two years ago, highlighted Toyota as an engine of job creation, by focusing on its U.S. facilities.
Steve Sturm, group vice president/Toyota Motor North America, says that the effort--six months in the making and following extensive research--is intended to inject an emotional element into Americans' understanding of the company, known for decidedly left-brain virtues.
"We have very good feedback on the company's capability, as a corporation known for reliability and quality, and for its reputation as an industry leader," he says. "But we needed to have more emotion." He adds that the company also wanted to broaden the message with a three-tiered approach to engender "a more emotional and engaging relationship" with customers, consumers and promulgators of opinion.
In 30- and 60-second versions and using time-lapse photography, the TV ad shows a Prius being created from natural elements. Then--again in time-lapse--the car slowly suffers the slings and arrows of natural forces, its elements returning to soil, and leaving an empty field.
The voiceover says: "Can a car company grow in harmony with the environment? Why not? At Toyota, we're not only working toward cars with zero emissions, we're also striving for zero waste in everything else we do. Because the best way to have an impact on the environment is to have as little impact as possible."
Sturm says the creative focus on Prius rather than, say, a production facility, reflects the strength of Toyota's reputation as a maker of hybrid gas/electric vehicles and its status as the maker of the largest variety of such vehicles.
"And the core of that reputation is built on Prius," he says, adding that the environmental message extends from the vehicle itself to Toyota's broader conservation efforts. "It's kind of crosses boundaries and elements."
The TV spot will also run on a variety of other news programs on a range of cable and network properties, and sites like NYTimes.com, CNN.com, and MSNBC.com. There is also a micro-site within Toyota.com devoted to the effort. As part of the effort, Toyota will sponsor the PBS show "Nature."
"The target is influencers," says Marjorie Schussel, national manager of corporate communications. "The target individuals are well-read, very sophisticated opinion leaders in their respective communities."
Three print ads--one on Toyota's new plant in San Antonio, Texas; another on Toyota's environmental efforts; and the third on social responsibility--will run in 20 magazines including Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Real Simple, and Architectural Digest. Newspaper ads broke Monday.
The first wave of the campaign runs through March, per Sturm. Phase two begins in the second quarter of next year, with new creative.