Toyota has been busy this year. It's launched a host of cars, including the Prius, Prius c, Prius V, Camry, Aurion, Lexus GS, Lexus RX and new Corolla Wagon. And the 86 has also taken to the streets, but not before receiving some attention from the Fun Police, a campaign developed by AIM Proximity Wellington to launch its sportscar.
AIM Proximity creative director Brett Hoskin said the brief sought to reposition the Toyota brand as being less mainstream.
“We wanted to demonstrate with the brand that Toyota is prepared to have a bit of fun and a bit of a laugh at itself. It’s not necessarily out of character for Toyota but it was different. “
He says sports car advertising ordinarily features a shot of a car driving with music to it, but in this case the aim was to “mess it up a bit”.
“Toyota wants to reposition itself as a brand that’s producing fun cars and is more engaged with its audience. It was pretty much about delivering to that brief. It was really important for us to have fun with our audience and the campaign, and not to take ourselves too seriously, which is exactly what the car is about.”
While Toyota has adapted better than most to the financial crisis for the past few years, both its chief executive Akio Toyoda (no, that’s not a typo) and senior vice president Bob Carter have acknowledged it can no longer rest on its laurels. Which is one reason the previously more subdued Toyoda can now often be found dressed to the nines in racing suits and making numerous public appearances on racetracks. The company last year launched its fight back plan, with Toyoda proclaiming, “If it's not fun to drive, it's not a car", and also unveiling the company’s new tag lines: : “Reborn” and “Fun to Drive, again.”
The anticipation behind the launch of the 86 might have been beneficial from a PR point of view, but it proved challenging when developing a Kiwi campaign for the car.
“There’s been a huge amount of motoring press about it around the world and we were in a position where there was nothing new we could say about the car,” says Hoskin. “We couldn’t hold back shots of the car and we couldn’t tease information about the car because there’s been a global frenzy about the car for the last five years, with concept cars and various things coming out.”
The sheer amount of global press about the car, says Toyota New Zealand general manager of marketing, Neeraj Lala, meant a New Zealand-centric approach to the launch was critical.
“We needed to bring the conversation to Kiwi customers and we wanted to do that by building a passionate community of cult followers. The 86 brand is also a halo to attracting fun back to the Toyota brand and so we knew the campaign needed to generate some fun.”
With anticipation of the 86’s arrival onto New Zealand shores rife, Hoskin says the team struck upon the idea of creating a campaign where the cars were hijacked upon arrival into New Zealand, and enlisting the help of the public to find them.
“With everyone waiting for it, we thought, ‘why don’t we nick them all and have some fun with it? The whole idea of Fun Police came out of that. Toyota normally does a whole lot of product demonstration in showrooms and on TVNZ. We thought we could do the same thing by creating a fake organisation that does that promoting of the car for us.”
Videos of the Fun Police driving and scrutinising the seized 86s’ were uploaded to YouTube and a Fun Police Facebook page was created. A week before the Fun Police were introduced into the campaign, 18 billboards advertising the 86 were erected and, when the Fun Police entered the vista, each billboard was slapped with a censorship sticker featuring a unique code. Punters were then able to enter the code online for a chance to win an 86 car for 86 days. Codes were also left every time the Fun Police posted something on their Facebook page. A Facebook page dedicated to the 86 in New Zealand also fed into the competition.
“It was essentially a crack the code and win promotion, but all done around the guise of the Fun Police destroying the cars,” says Hoskin. “In a way it’s similar to Batman and the Joker, where the arch nemeses likes to leave riddles and clues, but in this case it was the Fun Police leaving the clues.”
Enthusiasts went as far as to scale billboards on their hunt for the codes, and various websites were set up dedicated to sharing and finding the codes.
“It’s amazing how many people get off on that kind of thing,” comments Hoskin.
Lala is chuffed with the results of the campaign. He says over 275,000 competition entries were received over the space of 15 days and at last count, he says 80 percent of cars on the ground have sold out and there’s a waitlist.
The Toyota 86 Facebook page now has just under 10,000 fans that Hoskin says are now “pretty ardent Toyota sports car fans...a community that Toyota can now market to, talk to and build over time”.