Toyota Suggests You Buy A Lexus For Yourself

Toyota's tying one on again. The company's Lexus unit is launching its yearly red-ribbon campaign, its year-end clearance push to make way for '08 models.

The eight-year-old campaign proffers the idea of a Lexus as a gift, complete with a big red bow. The company says the new effort keeps with the gifting campaign, but with a twist. In one of the new spots, the person getting the Lexus is the person giving it.

Lexus says that almost 10% of Lexus vehicles sold during the holidays are purchased as gifts, and that Lexus dealers extend the creative element of the ads with enormous red bows for people who buy the cars as presents.

The effort launches this week with three TV ads, two print ads and three radio spots. One of the ads shows a thirty-something man opening odd gifts like a reindeer made of Christmas tree bulbs and the ever-useful cuckoo clock. The voiceover states: "If you didn't get everything you wanted this holiday season, just remember, there's no law that says you can't get yourself a little something." The spot then cuts to the man getting into a new IS, adorned with a big red bow.



Another spot shows Lexus' three SUVs--the LX, GX and RX--performing a "dance" in the snow to the song "Baby It's Cold Outside." The voiceover encourages shoppers to come in from the cold for the December sales event.

Print ads have headlines like "Bet nobody re-gifts these" and "New Year's Resolution," which has a handwritten note with resolutions like "eat better" "learn to skydive" and "treat myself to something nice."

The TV spots will run on network television, cable news, entertainment and sports channels.

Toyota's not alone. Others are trying to goose the market, which is softer because of high fuel prices and the mortgage crisis. Dan Gorrell, president of the Gorrell Group, a Tustin, Calif.-based consultancy, says that fourth-quarter sales are being squeezed by gasoline costs.

"That's the biggest influence," he says. "Consumers are shifting to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles because they have not seen gasoline shift back to historically low levels. And I think the fact that the industry is not going to fleet sales as much as they did is impinging on sales."

General Motors is running its yearly Red Tag Event, which it first launched as an incentive program in 2005. The program dangles discounts on some 2008 vehicles, and 0% financing for 60 months on many 2007 vehicles under the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Pontiac and Saturn banners.

Ford, Chrysler, and Lexus sibling Toyota are among other brands offering year-end deals.

Still, Gorrell says Lexus' situation is different. "Luxury brands don't feel the pinch as much, and they do typically run incentives and programs to capitalize on the fact that people buy such vehicles at year-end for spouses, for instance, but also for accounting reasons; a lot of luxury cars are business expenses."

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