“Are you a vegetarian?” asks Saatchi & Saatchi executive creative director Corey Chalmers before hitting the play button on the latest addition to the anthology of quirky stories that have come typify the Toyota Hilux brand.
It’s an unusual question, but not altogether unexpected given the series of teasers that have shown a trio of anthropomorphic animal “actors” on the back of Hilux utes in the lead up to the official release of the campaign.
As Chalmers hits the play button on the screen, a cheeky grin betrays the excitement he clearly feels about unveiling the full ad to Kiwis.
“This has been about six months in the making,” says Chalmers.
Featuring a poetic tribute to the Hilux performed by a series of animal characters (produced by Australia-based visual effects studio Alt.vfx) that willingly take their place on the chariot, the spot is an unapologetically mad celebration of the outdoors lifestyle facilitated by the vehicle.
“[Toyota chief executive] Alaistar [Davis] came to us and told us that he wants us to push it,” says Chalmers. “He knows the value of getting people’s attention through brave storytelling. So it was a challenge that we took head on.”
The ad that resulted from the creative process will no doubt ruffle a few feathers. Heavy on references to hunting and fishing, it risks provoking ire in anyone opposed to such activities. But joint ECD Guy Roberts says he isn’t too concerned.
“I think there might be a few people who say this isn’t right, but I really believe most New Zealanders will say ‘That’s a good ripping yarn,’” Roberts says.
Saatchi & Saatchi chief executive Nicky Bell adds that the agency has also taken careful steps to relay the fact that no animals were harmed in the making of the ad.
“It’s pretty clear that the animals aren’t real and there weren’t any animals hurt in the filming of the ad,” Bell says. “They are actors. Most people can differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.”
While the campaign is an entertaining piece of storytelling, it will also play an important business role for Toyota over the next few months.
Last year, after topping the ute charts for 32 years, the Hilux dropped below the Ford Ranger in terms of total sales.
Selling a total of 6,345 utes in 2014, Ford outsold the Hilux by approximately 560 units—a win Ford promptly celebrated with a series of print ads, in which it claimed its status as the number one ute in the country.
This shift did, however, occur during a period when the Toyota had not released a new version of the Hilux, and the car brand will hope its latest ad draws attention back to what has traditionally been the preferred ute brand for Kiwis.
In briefing Saatchi for the campaign, Toyota general marketing manager Andrew Davis said that it was particularly important that the new campaign appealed to urban consumers.
“This ute continues this legacy and also delivers on the increasing urban appetite for utes and Kiwi’s love of the great outdoors, so it was important that the latest campaign spoke to this emerging group of city dwellers. We presented Saatchi & Saatchi with a significant challenge in continuing the Hilux story, and we are excited with the final result which resets the benchmark and befits the legacy of Hilux.”
In referring to this legacy, Davis touches on the Hilux tradition of promoting its brand through quirky ads, such as the the Scotty and Crumpy spots, the controversial ‘Bugger’ ads, as well as the more recent sidecar-riding monkeys.
Chalmers admits that it was a daunting creative challenge to add to this canon, but he was confident the client would be open to creative ideas.
“It’s pretty intimidating to be sitting there and seeing this history, and then trying to hit that benchmark. Toyota has been an iconic brand for over 31 years, and they’ve got this amazing legacy of really great work. From CEO down, that marketing department is extremely brave. Alistair [Davis], for instance, did his tenure when Toyota was releasing ads like ‘Bugger’, so he was a part of that.”
Chalmers and Roberts are also familiar with the creative preferences of the Toyota executives, having been creatively involved in the celebrated masochistic kitty ad released in 2013.
In speaking about the cat ad for Corolla, Roberts says he was taken aback by the willingness of Toyota to tell the story rather than focus on outright promotion.
“We had a beautiful pack shot of the Corolla at the end, and we presented that to Toyota,” Roberts says. “After we walked out of the room, they called us back and we immediately thought ‘Ah, what now?’ Well, they actually wanted to remove the pack shot at the end and put the final shot of the cat with its head out the window at the end.”
This commitment to storytelling and creativity has served the car company well thus far. But whether the latest addition to the canon reaches the adoration levels of ‘Bugger’ or the adorable kitten will depend largely on the response from Kiwi audiences when the ad rolls out on television on Sunday night.
Client: Toyota New Zealand Limited
Alistair Davis – Chief Executive Officer
Andrew Davis – General Manager UV & Marketing, Executive
Susanne Hardy – Assistant Manager Marketing
Creative Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Credits
Nicky Bell - CEO
Guy Roberts - ECD
Corey Chalmers - ECD
Paul Wilson – General Manager
Susie Darling – Business Director
Murray Streets – Director of Strategy
Amanda Brittain – Senior Account Manager
Executive Producer – Jane Oak
Anna Kennedy – Senior Producer
Rob Flynn - Designer
Ross Davies - Designer
Tomas Cottle – Illustrator
Production Company: Robber’s Dog
Director: Adam Stevens
Executive Producer: Mark Foster
Managing Director: George Mackenzie
Producer: Helen Hendry.
DOP: Shelley Farthing-Dawe
Editor: Stewart Reeves (Rock Paper Scissors)
Visual Effects: Alt.vfx
VFX Supervisor: Colin Renshaw
Executive Producer: Kate Stenhouse
Sound design: The Coopers
Composition: Elliot Wheeler @ Turning Studios
Photographer: Ross Brown @ Match Photography
Retoucher: Andy Salisbury