Saatchi Plays Optical Tricks for Solara

LOS ANGELES To capture the wind-in-your-hair feeling of Toyota’s first Solara convertible, Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi will dot the country with lenticular and 3-D billboards that create optical illusions as drivers pass them.

Creative directors Miles Turpin and Steve Landrum, both of Saatchi’s Torrance, Calif., office, chose the Solara to launch what they said is the first lenticular billboard in the category because of the simplicity of the creative sell. “The Solara coupe’s styling had already been well received,” said Landrum. “So the big news was the introduction of the convertible. The tagline, ‘The perfect getaway car,’ was designed with the medium of outdoor in mind, for billboards to be noticed.”

In the lenticular board, the top of a red Solara driven by a carefree couple goes down and the wheels of the car appear to spin faster. “We did focus groups with convertible owners and found that whatever really rotten thing had happened to them that day, putting down the top made them feel better,” added Turpin, “that life will get different in a convertible.”

Group production manager John Rice had initially experimented with lenticular displays for Camry bus-shelter campaigns. “But we’d never used lenticular on a grand scale,” Rice said.

Working with Lenticular Image, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Saatchi’s first board went up two weeks ago at Olympic and Sepulveda in Los Angeles. A second sign in Long Beach was unveiled last week and three others are nearing completion for the Southeast Expressway in Boston, the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey and Interstate 101 in Berkeley, Calif. The displays will remain up through May.

Rice said the process involves computer modeling of the image, model building and finding boards with the correct optical angle. “The breakthrough difference is in the new [lenticular] lenses imported from Japan,” said Rice. “They are now much higher quality and come in panel sizes as large as four by eight feet. Surprisingly, they took not much longer to put up.”

A second set of boards use molded vinyl extrusions extending into the background and foreground. The Solara pops out in front of the board and a kite seems to fly behind the car. Rice worked with Atomic Props, St. Paul, Minn., on the five boards, which premiered in Los Angeles and Carson, Calif., last week. Additional displays are going up in Denver, Baltimore and San Francisco in April and May.

The experimental displays have been buttressed by a conventional-image outdoor campaign involving 29 boards in 10 markets, the agency said. Campaign spending was undisclosed.