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Toyota’s Super Bowl Ad Relies on Car Challenges, Not Famous Faces

In this Super Bowl commercial, the car is the star.

While many big game marketers are relying on famous faces such as Peyton Manning, Tina Fey, Kate McKinnon, Chris Pratt or LL Cool J to capture viewers’ attention this Sunday, Toyota is making a late drive into Super Bowl LVIII with a new ad that lets its new Tacoma speak for itself (more or less).

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In a 30-second spot crafted with Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, Toyota spotlights the Tacoma’s ability to help drivers have new adventures, particularly off-road ones. Passengers are spotted grabbing the passenger-side grip handle as the car is put through its paces. They have colorful comments to offer, including “Shut the front door” or  “Woah, woah, woah, woah!” or “No me gusta!” The ad is kinetic, and not for those who might easily get motion sickness.

There were other interesting outbursts, says Mike Tripp, group vice president, Toyota Marketing, Toyota Motor North America during an interview, but Toyota’s legal department felt the company would fare better by not airing them on broadcast television.

TV stars, athletes and musicians can generate instant recognition in viewers who see the Super Bowl ads, but Tripp says, “I believe great creative is great creative if you can find a simple truth that connects with people.” So the commercial, which was not produced expressly for the Super Bowl, doesn’t have celebrities, pop songs or outrageous special effects.

In this case, he says, viewers will understand the fun ride they can have with Tacoma by watching the reactions of the passengers and hearing their expressions. “There are no production costs outside the normal ones for us,” says Tripp. “It will be interesting to see how 115 million people react to the spot.”

Toyota is making a U-turn of sorts. The automaking giant indicated  in mid-January that it was not going to take part in Super Bowl LVIII, which will be broadcast by CBS from Las Vegas on February 11. And this came after the company didn’t run an ad in 2023 — the first time it had not done so since 2017. Within days, it was revving its engines about its decision to buy a spot.

CBS had declared in November that it was “virtually sold out” of Super Bowl inventory, but then the inevitable happened: someone who had signed up to buy time reversed the decision, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s a common occurrence that takes place behind the scenes. An advertiser who agreed to run a pitch gets cold feet, doesn’t like the commercial that was supposed to run, or needs to claw back the money being spent. When that’s the case, the network airing the event typically tries to find someone else to take the commercial time off the customer’s hands.

Toyota and its representatives were approached by CBS, Tripp says, and told that some time had become available. Toyota realized it had a lot of elements in place that would help boost a Super Bowl ad, including a deal struck in October that makes it the official automotive sponsor of the NFL. Earlier this month, Toyota revealed that both Eli Manning and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy were made “national partners” that would make them part of certain marketing initiatives.

The sponsorship deal “gives us a tremendous amount of presence on site” at the Super Bowl, says Tripp, as well as during the CBS broadcast.

Toyota will appear elsewhere. The company is also running a new ad – produced separately by Conill, the company’s Hispanic agency of record – in the fourth quarter of the Univision broadcast of the game.

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