Saatchi Directs Toyota SUV at Women

LOS ANGELES Addressing an unintended sales gender gap, Toyota is now marketing the RAV4 compact SUV specifically to young female buyers in a TV spot that breaks Jan. 26. A complementary print campaign will follow.

Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif, created the 30-second “A Friend in Need.” The spot’s Charlie’s Angels-like group of women skillfully maneuver the Toyota through a cityscape to kidnap a handsome bike messenger. They stuff him and his bike into the RAV4 (demonstrating its large capacity), take him on a whirlwind shopping spree and makeover, then put him on a faux date with one of the women.

In the payoff, the “couple” pretends they have stumbled upon her ex, who is having dinner with another woman, in an attempt to make him jealous. The tagline, delivered by narrator Jeff Goldblum, is: “The Toyota RAV4 prepares you for anything.”

“The spot’s kind of like Sex in the City, if they drove cars in New York City,” said Mark Turner, director of planning. “It’s a fun and sporty package, and compact with great interior functionality. The RAV4 appeals to people with spontaneous, active lives. The women index high on outdoor activities such as golfing and skiing, on style, restaurants and shopping.” Print ads include insets of women’s closets.

“If you go back to the original RAV4, the trend was developing from the very beginning,” said Earnest Bastien, corporate manager, Toyota vehicle operations group, Torrance. “When we did consumer research, we saw that it was gender neutral and launched the RAV4 that way. But we found that 75 percent of the buyers are women. So the concept now is to appeal to the consumers most likely to buy the product.”

Bastien said that skew is the most dramatic among Toyota vehicles, with the exception of trucks, purchased 80 percent of the time by men. He said RAV4 sales were down, but that they remain “in line with expectations and are sustaining quite well.” Toyota Highlanders are also purchased more often (65 percent) by women, Bastien added.

Production credits on the TV spot go to Saatchi creative directors Matt Bogen and Brett Ridgeway, art director Nick Hunziker, copywriter Suzanne Steele and producer Elissa Singstock.

Campaign spending was not disclosed. Toyota spent $14 million advertising the RAV4 in 2002 and $11 million through September 2003, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.