Brand: Toyota Camry Hybrid
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“Papa, why do we have a hybrid?” a child asks as the camera pans around a Toyota Camry, highlighting the word ‘hybrid’. “For your future,” the Dad answers. “Why?” the boy probes. “It’s better for the air,” the father says as we see them on the inside of the car. “And we spend less because it runs on gas and electrical power,” he continues as we get shots of trees and an eagle cut in with the car. “Mira. Mira qui,” he says, pointing to the color information screen. “It uses both.” “Like you with English and Spanish,” the boy says. “Si,” the father says. “Why did you learn English?” the boy asks. “For your future,” the father replies. More shots of the car as we hear a voiceover saying “Coming Soon – the all-new 2007 Camry. Also available with Hybrid Synergy Drive,” we see a hybrid synergy drive logo, “Toyota – the power to move forward.”
We are covering this spot because it broke new ground in the Super Bowl, speaking directly to the Hispanic experience in America. And also because Bob Garfield roundly panned it – deriding it as simplistic and ‘patronizing.’ We are not Hispanic (your reviewer is half-Asian, for the record) but we disagree on Garfield’s overall comments and will wait to hear from the Hispanic community for their own reaction.
Marketing on the Super Bowl is about doing the branding basics well while at the same time delivering something new or entertaining enough to break through the clutter. While this spot was not in the least entertaining, it was new. Ironically, the focused attention of the Super Bowl (where people actually stop to watch the ads) gave this spot a better showing than it might get during normal network TV – where the new ground it broke went unnoticed.
Some of what was missing in many of the spots on the Super Bowl was very evident here – namely the brand, the product and a lot of focus on a unique selling proposition.
The pitch for the Hybrid Camry was straightforward and accomplished with a metaphor. Just as English and Spanish can complement each other and an investment in English is an investment in the future for a non-native speaker, gasoline and electric power complement each other in the hybrid Camry and an investment in a hybrid is an investment in the future.
This is the right selling proposition for a hybrid as gas prices alone still don’t justify them on an economic basis (although economists have neglected to mention that it is easier for consumers to finance a more expensive vehicle over 5 years and then pay less at the pump for gas in cashflow terms).
But what about the Hispanic metaphor here? We would argue that while it is an important acknowledgement of the growing role of this community in American life, the commercial is not focused on selling Hispanic consumers hybrid cars.
Who does buy hybrid cars? Higher income and environmentally aware people (although the demographic is widening as gas prices rise). And these people are more likely to be liberal.
So yes, we are suggesting that Toyota produced – in the most innocent, inoffensive way possible – a spot targeted at liberals who will share the belief in the positive side of immigration. If you believe that immigration from the Puritans to the Irish and Italians to the present has been a source of competitive strength for the country and that the process of assimilation is good for the individual and the society, you are likely to respond to the message in this ad.
We believe this spot works because Toyota has used the newness of a commercial with some Spanish in it (although less than many Americans hear in their daily life) to communicate to the core audience for hybrid vehicles.
And let’s not forget – it is big news. A hybrid Camry brings the hybrid drive to one of the world’s best selling cars. When the sales figures are noted, it might be hard for anyone to argue that this spot was less than a success.
This spot is super-earnest, and it is possible that it might come off as condescending to the Hispanic community, although we don’t think so. We also wouldn’t run it much outside of the Superbowl, because it looks like such an ordinary car commercial with the volume turned off that it requires focused attention to see what is new.
Toyota shared the new-hybrid spotlight with Kermit and the Ford Escape, who took a very different route to reach the same audience with the same message. This does point out that ‘Hybrid’ in itself will not remain a unique selling proposition for long.
Branding Bottom Line:
Mira – it’s a Toyota Camry Hybrid. Can you say ‘sold out’?